The Song to the Lamb
Don’t you care about who holds power? Who is in control? And don’t you wish you knew what the future held for you and those you care about? Doesn’t it bother you that people have all kinds of solutions to big problems but nothing seems to really change? Or if it does change for the better, must it always change back into a bigger mess? Where does our hope lie? What can we really put our trust in? I believe God is in control and that as we worship him he draws us into his presence and accomplishes his will. Let’s pray now.
Lord we come to you recognizing that we are utterly sinful. We have not loved You or each other as we ought. We have missed all your splendor and beauty and become distracted by our sin and the misery around us in this world. Forgive us our sins and heal us. Open your Word up to us and show us Jesus in a new and powerful way. Teach us a new song of praise and guide us in your ways. Amen.
As we gather in the presence of the Lord today I’d like to combine elements of responsive reading and songs of praise with the Scripture reading and sermon. It is not enough to hear with our ears. We owe Christ our everything! This service might seem a little bit different, but I can’t just talk about worship, I want us to adore the Lamb of God together with all the saints and angels of God in the book of Revelation. Did you know that the perpetual worship and prayer does not stop? That is where the true power is. The New Testament teaches us that Jesus did not argue with the powerful but took on himself the wrath of the empire. He stayed silent.
“When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor. “(Matthew 27:12-14, NIV)
Instead of defending himself, Peter tells us that Christ entrusted himself to God.
“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:22-25, NIV)
The Evangelist Philip met an African Jewish man on the road and he taught him that Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah 53.
“This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
‘He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.’” (Acts 8:32-33, NIV)
Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Let’s read this responsive prayer together. I’ll read the first line with the asterisks aloud and you read each line following.
Christ our Passover (Pascha nostrum)
1 Corinthians 5:7-8; Romans 6:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:20-22
Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; *
therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, *
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.
Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; *
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; *
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin, *
and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.
Christ has been raised from the dead, *
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death, *
by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, *
so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.
(Book of Common Prayer, pg. 83)
Sing: Behold the Lamb of God by Glenn Kaiser
Behold the Lamb of God
Who takes away
Who takes away the sins of the world
Behold the Lamb
White as snow
Pure as gold
Greater love the world
Will never know!
In Revelation chapters four and five John the Seer is shown a scroll with writing on the front and side. In it is held the secret of what is yet to come. No one on heaven or earth can be found to open it and John weeps. How can he tell what he sees unless it is opened? But then the lamb of God takes the scroll and opens it. He alone is worthy. We face a lot of uncertainty in our country today. Our elected leaders blame each other a lot for our country’s poor, and they blame each other for being a government that stays in debt. But the American people overall still don’t turn out to vote in elections like they did in the 1950s. There’s a lot of talk, and politics is an important source of entertainment in our country, but people still feel quite frustrated and powerless. The churches of Asia Minor who are addressed in Revelation were beset with many fears about their future. But the letter raised their gaze from the darkness of their uncertainty and gave them a window into heaven. Frank Senn writes:
“The premise of this literature is that those oppressed for their faith see no hope for salvation on the plane of human history. Indeed, the battle being fought is not to be understood just in terms of politics and economics, but in terms of “spiritual powers in high places.” So the apocalyptic writers looked beyond current history to the dramatic and miraculous intervention of God, who would set right the injustices inflicted on his people. They offer words of hope and encouragement to the persecuted faithful by envisioning the vindication of the elect in the resurrection of the dead and the blessing of heavenly life, the coming judgment of the world, and the creation of a new Jerusalem.” (Frank C. Senn, The People’s Work: A Social History of the Liturgy, pg. 46)
I was taking pictures and video at a government press conference recently. As I listened to all the verbal backslapping and endorsements, the proud accomplishments and calls for adulation, I could not help but think of how much this scene resembled a worship service. Each appointed leader was like a minister, marveling at what the government had accomplished and calling for praise at what would surely be done in the future. They promised that they were changing the course of history for the whole world to see. A paid consultant promised us all that our grandchildren would look back to this moment like previous generations looked to the Emancipation Proclamation.
Civic and state worship is painful however to anyone who loves Jesus more than anything, and who is fully engaged in loving the least of these. Roman citizens found Christians so repugnant because they couldn’t just love Jesus alongside the Emperor cult. Jesus had to have the title of Lord instead of the Emperor. Frank Senn helps us understand the worship of the Lamb of God in this context:
“In a scene reminiscent of the honors given to a Roman emperor, large numbers of heavenly beings sing of Christ’s worthiness to disclose God’s plans. There are seven honors he is worthy to receive. (Rev. 5:12) The first four concern his dominion: power, wealth, wisdom, might; the others express the adoration of those present: honor, glory, blessing. The “Lamb” and the Creator (“the one seated on the throne”) are equal in majesty and are equally worthy to receive “blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever” (v. 13). All creatures in heaven and on earth affirm this to be true by saying, “Amen”. (The People’s Work, pg. 50)“
No one gets our worship today but Jesus. Join with me in reading aloud “A Song to the Lamb.”
A Song to the Lamb (Dignus es)
Revelation 4:11; 5:9-10, 13
Splendor and honor and kingly power *
are yours by right, O Lord our God,
For you created everything that is, *
and by your will they were created and have their being;
And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain, *
for with your blood you have redeemed for God,
From every family, language, people, and nation, *
a kingdom of priests to serve our God.
And so, to him who sits upon the throne, *
and to Christ the Lamb,
Be worship and praise, dominion and splendor, *
for ever and for evermore.
(Book of Common Prayer, pg. 93-94)
Song: Ancient of Days by Jamie Harvill and Gary Sadler
BLESSING AND HONOUR, GLORY AND
BE UNTO THE ANCIENT OF DAYS
FROM EVERY NATION, ALL OF CREATION
BOW BEFORE THE ANCIENT OF DAYS
EVERY TONGUE IN HEAVEN AND EARTH
SHALL DECLARE YOUR GLORY
EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW AT YOUR
YOU WILL BE EXALTED, O GOD
AND YOUR KINGDOM
SHALL NOT PASS AWAY
O ANCIENT OF DAYS
YOUR KINGDOM SHALL REIGN
OVER ALL THE EARTH,
SING UNTO THE ANCIENT OF DAYS
FOR NONE CAN COMPARE
TO YOUR MATCHLESS WORTH,
SING UNTO THE, ANCIENT OF DAYS
“In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1Timothy 6:13-19, NIV)
Almighty, everlasting God, let our prayer in your sight be as incense, the lifting up of our hands as the evening sacrifice. Give us grace to behold you, present in your Word and Sacraments, and to recognize you in the lives of those around us. Stir up in us the flame of that love which burned in the heart of your Son as he bore his passion, and let it burn in us to eternal life and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Chris Rice