Dear Friends

Revelation 5:  8 – 10
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;
you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,
and they will reign on earth.’
Different context can give an entirely different meaning to words and phrases.  ‘One for the road’  means one thing at the end of a long evening in the pub and quite another when you are looking at maps in a bookshop.  What do you think is the setting of the verses above and what do they mean?  Is it about escaping the troubles on earth or transforming them?
Did you guess that they are taken from a chapter which speaks of the fullness of heaven?  The assembled company of people in heaven are bowing down before Jesus, the lamb, the king of heaven and earth, and worshiping him, much as you and I might do when singing a rousing hymn, only more so!  We learned slightly earlier in the chapter that Jesus is the only one who is able to open the scroll.  When, in the next chapter, Jesus does so, we hear predictions of the coming judgement including the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  If we are not careful it all gets rather dark!
The context of this passage is the Roman occupation of the near East and the appalling suffering that was inflicted on many people as a result.  Christians fared worse than most, reviled by everybody, they were often the scapegoats.  So the violence that is implied was part of their everyday life and the goal of heaven as escapism and a place where violence has ended was meaningful.
I suspect one of the problems with global society today is that there are many people who think they themselves are worthy to open the scroll.  Indeed they think they have a right to do so.  And a right to predict judgement on people around them.  When we are faced with maverick presidents acting like Caesar 2000 years ago, inciting violence, courting impeachments, and global extremism and instability on a scale we have not seen for decades it is easy to think of situations where this is true.  The question however to ask ourselves before we point the finger too quickly at others is whether we identify with this worship in heaven in the passage?  Are you one of the number that is bowing down before Jesus?  The passage implies that we are because after all it is Christians who are worshiping.  That means we are giving Jesus the power to put it all right, to bring heaven to earth and transform the unequal and unfair society which is the world today.
And that’s what’s in the scroll.  Jesus acting with judgement.  The proof is in the very last line of today’s little excerpt.  ‘and they will reign on earth’. We are not talking about heaven as escape, but heaven as transformation of earth. And this gives hope.  It doesn’t give us the right to do nothing and just wait for God to act.  To do so is opting out and trying to escape like the worst sort of interpretation of the setting of the passage.  But it does give reassurance that as Mother Julian of Norwich put it .  ‘All will be well, and all things will be well.  That’s heaven on earth and manna, the food of heaven to a hungry soul!
A prayer for troubled times
O Lord, my God you are my refuge and my strength.
You are my ever-present help in times of trouble.
When it seems like my world is crumbling around me and I am thrown around by the storms of my life, take away my fear.
When I am weak, you are my strength.
When I am vulnerable, you are my refuge.
When I cry for help, you will answer.
Remind me Lord that you are always with me, you will never leave or forsake me.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Another hymn today.  Listen to Lord enthoned in heavenly splendour and imagine you are singing it inside the gates of heaven!
Every blessing