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Victory for the Hopeful

. 6 min read

2016/05/01 Christ Church,
Mountain Top, Easter 5
Call to Worship, Psalm 98 (only
for Sunday night)
Children, Matthew
16.13-27
Message, Revelation 19.1-21
(11-21)
Song, “In the Night”, entire song
We react against some of these
images, especially the gory “repellant realism” of the war language (Metzger,
92). We take it too literally, that is, we take it literally in a way that
figurative language never intended. We write it off as inconsistent with the
love of God (the wedding language in the first half of the chapter). We push it
off to a future that is disconnected from us, either by creating a false
distance by pinning down and objectifying the dates and details of 666, the
identity of the antichrist, and Armageddon; by focusing the apocalyptic
language on flesh and blood enemies or social issues of our time; or by
consigning it to a future that will never arrive. (After all, it hasn’t
happened yet.)
      A
side note here. The Scriptures make clear that we are at war. “Indeed, we live
as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the
weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to
destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up
against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ”
(2 Corinthians 10.3-5). “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and
flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic
powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the
heavenly places.  Therefore take up the
whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and
having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6.12-13). “I watched Satan
fall from heaven like a flash of lightning” (Luke 10.18).
      If
our understanding of the salvation war we see in John’s vision does not include
spiritual forces, including our pride, our wayward thoughts, and Satan, then it
lacks the robust and complete picture that John offers.

We need these images, both the
war and the wedding. John the Revelator was not some wild-eyed prophet,
respected but weird. No, he was a pastor (yes, we can be weird sometimes). This
strange book comes as a letter to seven churches which John has served,
churches struggling to keep faith when times are hard and to remain distinct
when things are easy. As a pastor, he cares that our imagination be formed by the
Scripture that colors his visions, that we not simply get our salvation
parchment, signed, framed and hanging on the wall with the high school diploma
and the college degree (see Peterson). No, he wants us to be participants in
the drama, to live today as “the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6.2). We need
these images, both the wedding and the war. Even our proverbial speech
recognizes that there is some significant connection between the two: “All’s
fair in love and war.”
Two main sections, with
overlapping themes:
      Vv
1-10, Wedding
      Vv
11-21, War
Jesus: Lamb – Warrior on White
Horse (Christus Victor)
Church: Bride – Battle host (same
clothing)
      Fine
linen, bright/white and pure
Meals: wedding feast of the Lamb
(Eucharist/Lord’s Table)
      Carrion
birds at the battlefield
Intimacy:
      Wedding,
union of love
      Warfare
– name on thigh
            Vow
of Abraham’s servant
            Willie
Nelson signing after a concert
            Garter
ritual at a wedding
      Warfare
– naming, even, perhaps the private name
            Faithful
and True (also said of a husband)
            A
name that no one knows but himself (inscribed)
            The
Word of God
                  (sword
from his mouth)
      King
of kings and Lord of lords (inscribed on thigh)
Sierra Leone story (guests this
week)
      11
year civil war
      Loss
of minerals without gain of wealth
      Ebola
(Daisy’s husband, Phileas’ sister-son)
Four Horseman of the Apocalypse:
      The
first one, on the white horse, is the rider of Revelation 19!
            I
looked, and there was a white horse! Its rider… (6.2)
            I
[looked] …, and there was a white horse! Its rider… (19.11)
            Same
Greek phrasing!
      Does
battle against the other 3 horseman and comes
first!
            War
            Famine (and all economic inequality)
            Pestilence (disease and ecological
disaster)
      (See
Peterson)
Does this sound at all like what
our brothers in Sierra Leone face?
And what spiritual forces do we
face? What struggles are so big that we cannot conquer except through Christ?
      Brokenness
in our political process
      Broken
system for serving those with mental health needs
      Persistent
racism, what Jim Wallis calls “America’s original sin”
      Addiction
& secret desire, ours or that of someone we love
      Entrenched
resistance to what is good, simply because it is new
      Joblessness
and financial struggles
      Marriages
or other primary relationships breaking down
Without a clear eye to the
reality of the war we face, we do not adequately appreciate the feast before
us. Because it is the marriage feast of the Lamb, the Lamb who is the Lion, the
Lamb who is the Victorious Warrior. This feast not only celebrates the depth of
his love for us, that he is willing to lay down his life for us. This feast
also celebrates his victory in our battle, his victory in all battles, his
victory in the final battle.
Eugene Peterson suggests that a
Psalm to pair with this chapter of the Revelation is the familiar Psalm 23
(166):
      “Thou
preparest a table before me
            In
the presence of mine enemies”
Resources:
Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and
the Praying Imagination
Bruce Metzger, Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of
Revelation
Song: In the
Night (Andrew Peterson), including lyrics below
I am weary with the pain of
Jacob’s wrestling
In the darkness with the Fear, in
the darkness with the Fear
But he met the morning wounded
with a blessing
So in the night my hope lives on
And when Elisha woke surrounded
by the forces
Of the enemies of God, the
enemies of God
He saw the hills aflame with
angels on their horses
So in the night my hope lives on
Oh in the night, Oh in the night,
my hope lives on
I see the slave that toils
beneath the yoke unyielding
And I can hear the captive groan,
hear the captive groan
For some hand to stay the whip
his foe is wielding
Still in the night my hope lives
on
I see the armies of the enemy
approaching
And the people driven, trembling,
to the shore
But a doorway through the waters
now is opening
So in the night my hope lives on
      Oh
in the night …
Like the son who thought he’d
gone beyond forgiveness,
Too ashamed to lift his head–but
if he could lift his head
He would see his father running
from a distance
In the night my hope lives on
And I can see__ the crowd of men
retreating
As he stands between the woman
and their stones
And if mercy in his holy heart is
beating
Then in the night my hope lives
on
      [Interlude]
Well, I remember how they scorned
the son of Mary
He was gentle as a lamb, gentle
as a lamb
He was beaten, he was crucified,
and buried
And in the night, my hope was
gone
But the rulers of this earth
could not control Him
No they did not take his life–he
laid it down
And all the chains of death could
never hope to hold him
So in the night my hope lives on
And I can see the Son of Man
descending
And the sword he swings is
brighter than the dawn
And the gates of hell will never
stand against him
So in the night my hope lives on

Oh in the night, Oh in the night,
my hope lives on