Saved by a Sheep
Rev 5:1-13 The Scroll and the Lamb
5 Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; 2and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’ 3And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. 4And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’
6 Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. 8When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9They sing a new song:
‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; 10 you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.’
11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12singing with full voice,
‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!’
13Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,
‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!’
We started to wonder about this last week, what does the splendour and the communal, creative dynamic of the throne room say about the one who is at the center of it? The thrones on thrones, glory like precious gems, winged creatures, rolls of thunder, golden crowns, and angelic choirs….The splendor of this awesome throne, the momentum of grandeur leads me waiting for the reveal of the great and powerful God sitting on that central throne, a God that will assuredly be similarly bedazzled and opulent, instantly seen as powerful. I'm expecting the great and powerful Oz. Especially in this vision of the hereafter, of God’s grand hope for creation...this is where I'd expect God would let loose and really pull out all the stops to be her glorious fantastic self.
There's a scroll that needs opening, needs someone to read it, to speak it into being, but nothing in all of creation has been found worthy of the task.
John hears that a lion will be the one. The king of the jungle, this intimidating animal at the top of the food chain…
The lion of the tribe Judah, the fierce champion of God’s people…
And so he turns to look and sees...a little lamb looking as if it had been slaughtered and yet is alive. Before him, among the opulent, there is no visible evidence of the mighty lion but simply a bloodied animal of sacrifice.
This maimed and yet marvelous creature brings us back to the cross and beyond it. In christ’s crucifixion our bloodlust culminates in finally destroying our own creator. And yet, God would rather die than watch us continue to destroy our very selves. And so, the lamb of sacrifice is transformed from lowly livestock to the source of all life from everlasting to everlasting. Here ends the endless cycle of death and dying for a new order of life and living. The death of Christ is the way that the power of God is unleashed. It is the power of self-sacrifice that builds God's kingdom by redeeming people of every tribe and nation.
This vision of Revelation shows God’s reign as complete. The number 7, which goes back to act of creation, denotes completeness, fullness. This lamb with 7 eyes and 7 horns is the fulfillment of God's promises.
Nothing else could be worthy or capable of handling the Holy scroll which John finds sealed. The scroll is understood to hold God's living Word of salvation. As many people as have claimed to be the keeper’s of God’s judgement or taken it upon themselves to implement their own understanding of making the world “right” before God, here we see that such claims and abuses run contrary to Revelation. The voices screaming that God hates you, God condemns you, God has forgotten you...are liars. Those shadow puppets that are trying really hard to get you to believe that they are lions, are probably not of the lamb.
The scroll, salvation, is in God's hands and only God's hands. It is sealed. How the world will be reconciled is unknowable, but also unalterable. Nothing can change God's steady march toward redeeming all of creation, each of us. Not. One. Thing.
This stirs up a new song, ushers in a new era. In God's kingdom there is power in the powerless. It is not bestowed upon them from on high, but emerges from the belittled, the looked down upon, the overlooked.
If we are looking for God, looking for the one who can liberate us, restore us to life, teach us a new song of hope and love...then it seems our efforts would be best spent by paying attention to the powerless…
Those without healthcare, the migrant, those in jail or trapped in a cycle of the corporate prison pipeline, those with addictions, those whose skin color (we are told) makes their humanity and their capacity inherently suspect, those who live with mental illness, the ones our systems told us not to pay attention to, to forget, the ones that are sacrificed on our altars of the American dream, of self-advancement…
God dwells within on each of us, occupies every place, but when it comes to revealing the means of salvation, the manner in which all of creation is restored to God's grand vision for our world, to bringing about that promised reality...the circumstances surrounding those moments most often include that which is deemed weak, unproductive, or inessential to humanity’s thrones.
Take a moment to reflect on your day, your week. Put both feet on the ground, take several slow breaths, close your eyes. Ask God to reveal where you have experienced revelations of God right in front of you, moments when God comes right out in the open, where you have been among the powerless and potentially have missed the divine in your midst.