As usual, on Monday morning I'm still thinking about Bart's sermon on Sunday and often blog about it. I guess you could consider yourself blessed if you don't go to Mt. Vernon that you get a synopsis, because he is really a great preacher. I'm not even biased.
Yesterday he challenged us to reframe the way we see our time in church on Sunday mornings. Typically people think that when they go to church it is like a play or a concert. The congregation is the audience, the pastor and the choir/bell ringers/praise band are the actors, and God is somehow the conductor of it all.
But yesterday based on this passage, Bart explained it differently. These are the verses from Revelation 7:9-17 in the NRSV.
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
In his sermon, Bart suggested that maybe we have it all wrong. Worship really means that we are the actors, the prompters are the pastor/choir, etc. and the audience is God. He asked if knowing that would change the way that we approached worship.
Since it was All Saints Sunday, we were reflecting on those who had gone before us. He painted a wonderful picture of them in white robes waiting to welcome us so that we could join them in worshipping God. not getting into all of the end times and prophetical interpretations of the book, he simply suggested that the great ordeal was our earthly life and that for those who have come out of it, the reward is eternity with God.
As he preached I could picture my dad, my friend Tom, and many others who have gone on to heaven standing and waiting to greet me.
If this is the case, then, he suggested, we need to practice that kind of worship. While we are hear, living through the great ordeal of life, we need to recognize that this is just a sampling of the life to come… a life of worshipping the eternal God. Our worship on Sunday mornings as well as our daily lives, which are an act of worship.
The older I get the more people I know who are waiting for me to join them. The great ordeal becomes more troublesome as we age, part of God’s design, because it makes us long for a the new life that awaits us.
Soon after my Dad died, we were singing this song in church and I could see him in my minds eye, standing with the great crow of witnesses, singing these words. Powerful.
The great ordeal is just that some days, but I am more determined than ever to let my life be the kind of worship that is a rehearsal for my spot in that choir.