How would you preach a sermon about money and riches and wealth to a congregation in which there are people who are very well off, who have lots of assets; and people who have enough, they are making it fine, without a lot extra; and people who are struggling to make ends meet, maybe falling behind slowly; and people who are completely dependent on a social security check and that’s all they have; and people who are unemployed or underemployed? I want to say as faithfully as I am able what the Holy Spirit wants to say to our church through His inspired Word. This is the truth of God and the grace of God for all who will hear and receive it and apply it. May we all benefit for the sake of our souls.
After writing the seven letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor, John hears a voice that sounded like a trumpet saying: Revelation 4:1-2 “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. Then in chapter five he sees a Lion-Lamb who takes a scroll with seven seals. In chapter six he sees the first six seals opened. We got through the first four last week. When the fifth seal is broken there is a surprising and startling shift. No more living creatures, no more colored horses with riders. The entire vision now shifts from the earth back to heaven. We have seen the visions revealing a succession of judgments visited on the earth through conquest, war, famine and death. What will come of all the saints on earth with all these calamities? This seal with its vision of the martyrs gives a partial answer.
Let’s see a quick show of hands. How many of you are planning on still being alive next week? How many of you who have jobs are planning on still having them next month? How many of you are counting on still having reasonably good health a year from now? How many of you have some plans for travel and vacations later this year? We wake up every day in a world that lives this way. It may be one of the most common shared characteristics of each of us in this room. We all presume on the future. But there is a world of variables that could impact whether we actually go, variables involving any one of us and our health or life, variables of continued employment, variables of airlines or natural disasters. Our text in James is meant to give us some wisdom about life and making plans and the will of God. Let’s define the will of God first and look at different ways to respond to the will of God.
With chapter six we start opening the door to some pretty harsh reality, the reality of evil and judgment. But remember we didn’t start here. We started in chapter one with a vision of a victorious Christ. Then we saw Christ the great Shepherd shepherding the saints in seven churches, speaking truth and love and life to His church on earth. He knows the details of every church and cares for them perfectly according to their need. In Chapters four and five we saw God on the throne and the Lamb at the center of heaven, being worshiped by all creation. Christ is the centering reality, the central vision. He is high and lifted up, exalted and worshiped. Through five chapters it is all about Him. We can face what comes next knowing that Christ is the alpha and omega, the first and the last, the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty, the King of kings and the Lord of lord, who has the keys of Death and Hades. No matter how bad history gets, no matter how much suffering and persecution, we must keep our eyes on the center, on the throne and on the Lamb who holds the scroll. Chapters 4-16 are the meat of Revelation, part of the great throne room vision from which we have the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven bowls of the seven plagues. This is when God reveals Himself in history in a series of judgments leading up to the second coming of Christ and the consummation of all things. It is as if Christ is preaching four seven point sermons in which He explains to us the meaning of history and the world and evil and suffering. The first sermon or vision is the sealed scroll which holds all the judgments of God. This judgment begins as the Lamb opens the seals one at a time. What follows is the revelation of Jesus Christ making known the will of God.
Remember where we are and what’s going on. John is unfolding for us a new vision that started in chapter four. We are in heaven, we are before the throne of God, we are among those who around the throne, the four living creatures with wings, covered with eyes, the twenty four elders robed in white representing the old and new covenant people of God, the redeemed, the elect church of God. Now another dimension is added to the vision, something absolutely necessary for its administration, a scroll that was sealed and a lion-lamb that was slain.
If you have been out to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island and spent any time there you know there are two historical military sites there, the American Camp and the British Camp. And if you know that then you know about the war that almost broke out called the Pig War of 1859. An American farmer, Lyman Cutler, shot a pig that was eating his garden. Turns out the pig belonged to an Irishman and things escalated from there. History is filled with actual wars started over very minor incidents that got out of control. The War of the Whiskers, 1152-1453. The War of the Oaken Bucket, 1325. The War of Jenkins’ Ear, 1739-1748. The Toledo War, 1803-1836. “Thank God, I never liked Michigan weather anyway.” We all know how wars can begin in our homes. Do any of you remember a news story in Enumclaw in 1985 when a man got a legal demolition permit and bulldozed his two year old house his wife wanted in a divorce settlement? How about the 1994 story in Parris, Texas when their high school's Christmas concert was canceled after the chorus teacher allegedly smashed a chair on the band director over who would give the announcements. The Wars in the Middle East and Africa are just macrocosms of the wars and quarrels that rage in our hearts and homes and neighborhoods and schools and churches. The world news is just a mirror to our family news. James chapter 3 ends with a contrast between wisdom from the world and wisdom from above. Worldly wisdom is full of jealousy and selfish ambition, strife and disorder. Wisdom from above is pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason. Now James fleshes out what happens when we live according to the world and our flesh and fleshly passions and desires.
What would say if someone asked you on the street or in the coffee shop: “Who is your minister there at Lynden First CRC?” what would you tell them? now most of us, of course, would probably say: “Pastor Woodyard.” But, you know, that's not really true. for, though it may be surprising & startling & even revolutionary to our ears & thinking, it is surely & undeniably true & biblical the way 1 church bulletin puts it. o it states on 1 line its preachers & pastors & staff are Rev. & Mr. So-&-Sos. o but then on next line it says its ministers are all the members, the entire Congregation. & that's right on, because that is exactly what Ep.4 is teaching. o that every member is the minister of the church to build it up. o to make it mature in unity, in truth, in love & life.
Cadets, I really like your theme & text for this year. the theme: Branded with Christ, & the text: Deut.6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one God. Love Him with all your heart & with all your soul & with all your strength.” that reminds us that, as Christians, those who believe & love & serve the Lord, we are branded as the ones He saves & loves & owns. & then, as those, branded with Christ by faith , we must live that way in all we think & say & do.