Sermon by Janet Ruthven 21.11.21.

Sermon by Janet Ruthven

Sunday 21.11.2021

 

Daniel 7:9-10, 13, 14.  Revelation 1:4b-8

Good morning.  For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Janet.  I am a member of St Peter’s church and I am a second year ordinand, currently studying on the Local Ministry Programme in the Guildford Diocese.  It is a real pleasure to be with you today.  Before I begin, lets pray.  Father God I thank you for your word.  Please speak to us now, by your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

On this Christ the King Sunday, we are going to spend some time reflecting on who God is using two short passages – Daniel 7:9-10, 13, 14 and Revelation 1:4b-8. The passages are both distinctive in their style.  They are very pictorial in their language.  Both passages provoke lots of images.  The writers of both passages have seen a vision; they have heard from God and have written down what they have seen and heard.  Our passages are small sections from larger visions.  Perhaps you love images and as you heard the readings your mind began to imagine and picture what you were hearing.  If that is you – keep imagining.  Keep exploring the pictures and allow God to speak to you through them.  The writers have given us these images for a purpose.  If you are more of a word person, like me, it can be quite hard to imagine what we are reading and what the writers want us to take away.  The images and symbols are there to help us understand the messages rather than be a hinderance.  I read this week ”in verse 4 (of Revelation) John says Grace and peace to you, not perplexity and a puzzle”. 

As I have spent time reflecting on these passages, I have realised how much we can learn about God from the images described.  This morning we are going to spend time reflecting on the images in the passages, to see what we can learn about God.  My prayer is that we will all draw closer to God because of the images in our readings, as we allow God to speak to us.

Firstly, the Daniel passage. 

Verses 9-10 ‘As I looked, ‘thrones were set in place,  and the Ancient of Days took his seat.  His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool.  His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.  A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him.  Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated, and the books were opened.

We read of the Ancient of Days.  Daniel sees God himself.  He is grand.  Majestic.  My dictionary describes him as “ of great dignity and wisdom”.  The ancient of days has been there long before.  God is knowing.  He is wise.  We read that the Ancient of Days took his seat.  This helps me to think of God as calm.  I don’t imagine someone panicked about their situation, fearful and worried.  I don’t get the impression that he is pacing around.  In the scene described we hear that he takes his seat.  I often picture leaders in battle rushing and pacing around.  But here we picture someone taking their seat,  there is no rushing around under stress. We can approach God knowing he is in control, assured that he is wise and he is calm.  Assured that he is all knowing.  There is fire in the image.  Fire in the Old Testament often shows us Yahweh’s presence.  Daniel wants us to know that God is here.  In the image Daniel tells us that thousands upon thousands attended him, ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.  Daniel is trying to tell us a number of people too big to imagine.  The scene is vast.  Daniel is acknowledging God’s majesty and his supremacy. His awesomeness.  His greatness.  The scene described is impressive and remarkable.  God is worthy of our attention and our praise.

Verses 13-14  ‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

In the vision Daniel describes seeing one like a son of man.  Jesus used Daniel chapter 7 to describe himself.  In Mark 14:62 we read  ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’   In this vision God takes human form.  Daniel is seeing Jesus.  We read of Jesus being given authority.  He is glorious, all people will worship him.  His kingdom will not be destroyed – it is everlasting.  What wonderful truths, what amazing words and images.  What a wonderful assurance of who Jesus is.  What hope we are offered!  He is worthy of all of our praise.

Moving onto the Revelation passage, verse 4b-8 Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.  ‘Look, he is coming with the clouds,’ and ‘every eye will see him, even those who pierced him’; and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of him.’ So shall it be! Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’

This passage comes at the beginning of the book of Revelation; a book full of prophecy and vision first of all starts with these wonderful words of praise to God! 

We hear the analogy of God as the Alpha and the Omega.  Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.  God wants to emphasise his eternal nature – he was at the beginning of time and he will be when the world as we know it ends.   God has always been, he is the beginning and the end.  This passage reminds us that God loves us! He has freed us from our sins, we are reminded here that he does forgive us when we make mistakes.  We are reminded that we are part of God’s kingdom.  We are told that Jesus will come back!  It can be hard to imagine.  We don’t know when, but we do know that Jesus will return to us.  The passage reminds us that Jesus is bigger than we can imagine yet we also learn about his loving nature.

 

How can all that we have read and pictured today help us and encourage us? What does all that mean for us today, on 21st November 2021, on Christ the King Sunday when we are encouraged to focus on Christ’s kingship.   What does it mean for all of us in our different situations?  In the Covid-19 pandemic, which is still going on…  When we face dilemmas and problems due to climate change...  For you at St Marks as you are currently without a full time vicar, waiting for Gareth to arrive…  For all of us with our different personal situations…  Some of us are mourning the loss of loved ones…  Perhaps we are facing illness…  Maybe uncertainty of employment…  What do these images and pictures of God tell us today with all of these situations in our lives?

We have heard a lot of different things about God today.  We have heard different images described.  We have been reminded of different aspects of his character.  And for each of us, with our different situations, we will all be drawn to different images and reminders today.  Let’s pause and allow time for us to reflect on our passages and be open to God speaking to us…  Perhaps you need reassurance that God loves you … maybe you need to be reminded of that hope we have that Jesus hasn’t abandoned us but that he will come again…maybe the reminder of God being wise encourages us to pray more and trust him …perhaps the realisation that God speaks to us in images and dreams is helpful for you.  Are you open to God speaking to you like he spoke to Daniel and John?  Maybe the reminder of God’s awesomeness and majesty causes you to want to praise and worship Him.

 

Towards the end of  the book of Revelation, we read a wonderful picture of hope for the future.  Revelation 21:4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  Our situations are not automatically changed.  We still have hardships to face.  However as Christians we have a wonderful hope.  We have been reminded today that God will come again, and when he does we are assured of a new heaven and earth, with no more death or mourning or crying or pain.  Let’s hold onto that hope today.  We have a God who is all knowing, who is wise, who was at the beginning of time.  God is worthy of our praise.  Let’s remember that our God is a majestic king, strong in power, full of love for each of us.  Lets today choose to trust Him, whatever the circumstance we are facing.