First Lesson Matthew 26:17-30
Children’s story – II Kings 5:1-19
World Communion Sunday
I almost never talk about the book of Revelation, because the truth is that I do not understand much of it. In fact I have often said that when I am 90 years old and sitting in a wheelchair in a nursing home, I’ll finally have the time to study up and learn about the book of Revelation and maybe then maybe I’ll dare to talk about it. Until then, I say very little about that complex and mysterious book.
But I do see this picture, from the words we have just read and from the verses before that. I see a throne with a person sitting on it. The one on the throne reminds me of precious gem stones – orange-red carnelian, and dark red jasper. And there’s a rainbow around the throne that reminds me of deep green emeralds. And the more I look the more I see more thrones and people on those thrones dressed in brilliant white robes and they are surrounded by flaming torches. And I see a sea there – maybe more like a river - that looks like moving, flowing crystal coming from the throne of God.
And I see Jesus, looking like a lamb that was slaughtered and around him I see thousands and thousands of angels singing in a massive joyful powerful chorus: “Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.” And then I see that all the millions and millions of creatures who ever lived in the seas or on land or in the sky join in the song to praise the Lamb who was dead and now is alive forever more. Singing at the tops of their voices to Jesus who is now their king.
And then I see the people – an uncountable number of people from every country of the world, including places that I’ve never heard of and places that I don’t know where they are and places that don’t exist anymore. There are people from every tribe all over Africa and Asia and every tribe in this country. I hear a happy, holy, hubbub as all of them are speaking in their own languages. They are speaking in French and Spanish and Portuguese and Dutch and Chinese and Japanese and Greek and Turkish and Hindi. They are singing in Navajo and the people from Indonesia are speaking in Tagalog and the ones from Thailand are singing in Thai and Karen and the folks from Syria are speaking in Arabic dialects.
I see young brown boys and girls from Itapagipe Presbyterian church in Salvador, in Brazil. And I see their mothers joining in the grand celebration. Those children in Salvador dig into huge garbage piles in the city and bring home food for their mothers to prepare for supper every evening. And my friend Cecilia Valdivieso teaches cooking classes to the mothers so they can make nutritious meals for their families from other peoples’ garbage. There they are – those Brazilian children singing to Jesus. I see the Presbyterian women from Thailand and their Pastor, Sirirat Pusurinkham. Those women make beautiful handmade clothing and sell their vests and jackets and purses so that they don’t have to work in sweat shops like Nike and so that their children don’t have to be sold into sex slavery. And I see the women and men from the Presbyterian Church in Wum, in Cameroon, with their beautiful black faces and dressed in their colorful dresses and shirts. Safe water has recently come to their village thanks to Presbyterians in Michigan. Now they don’t have to walk several miles every day for safe water. Now they can bring their water pails to the spigots in a central place in their village and take it home with them. They are singing to Jesus in this immense, uncountable company. And I see my cousin Lars-Göran in the magnificent old cathedral in Stockholm and all the Bishops of Sweden in their flowing white robes and their elaborate head pieces and beautiful ornate gold vestments. They are singing their songs to Jesus and mingling among the others. I see refugees from Syria and Afghanistan and Pakistan – men and women and children – glad and grateful and thronging around Jesus’ table I see men and women and children from Jamaica and Ghana and Kenya with their black skin and their bright turbans and their brilliant clothing. I hear their tambourines and drums and I see them clapping and swaying their bodies in rhythm to the song. I see men and women from Wales, looking much like us, and especially the men, singing the way only Welsh men can sing in perfect multi-part harmony. I see Korean women wearing their long billowing dresses in bright yellow and bright orange, and I see Korean peasants wearing the pajama like clothing they wear to work in the fields, sometimes in slave conditions. But this time they are not bending down and this time their backs are not breaking because this time they are singing with all their might to that slaughtered lamb now on his glorious throne. They are all singing in the languages they know best and somehow we all understand each other.
And I see Jesus, inviting us all to the Table he has prepared for us. Inviting us to the Feast he has made ready for us. Eating bread and drinking wine with us as he promised he would. A great multitude of people – which nobody can begin to count. Men and women and children from the north and south and east and west – all sitting down at the Table with Jesus. I see the colors of their faces and the colors of their clothing and I hear them all joined in singing in languages I cannot begin to know - and praising and loving and adoring Jesus. That Lamb that was slaughtered and rose again to the rule the world in great glory. And who sits at the Table in that boisterous company of all his children from all over the world.
We are Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic and Anglican and Baptist and Assemblies of God and United Methodists and Lutherans and Presbyterians and Episcopalians and Pentecostals. We surely don’t agree on everything about our faith, and in fact we’ve had our share of fights with each other down through the centuries. Almost as soon as Jesus rose again and went back into heaven we have had bitter arguments about which of us knew him best and believed in him best and used the right words to describe him. Down for two thousand years of that. But on this we do agree: That Jesus, who was dead is alive again and is Lord of the Universe. We bow down to him and we raise our hands to him and we join him at his Table, in profound gratitude.
And almost as soon as Jesus rose again and went back into heaven the peoples of the world have been fighting with each other – sometimes going to war in his name. We have proudly announced that God was on our side and we have bombed each other to pieces. The Germans have bombed the Dutch and the Russians are attacking the Syrians and the Americans have attacked the Iraqis and pretty much every county that has bomb has used it on their neighbors and those who don’t have bombs have used their own evil weapons. We have slaughtered each other with evil cruelty and often for the wrong reasons. And we have built walls, literally built walls to keep our neighbors out.
But here we all together, around Jesus’ Table. Eating and drinking with him, and singing at the top of our lungs to him, and thanking him for what he has done for us – all of us together. Never mind the colors of our faces. Never mind the languages we speak or the countries we come from. Never mind our past political histories and wars with each other. Never mind our fights over doctrines. We are all together, at Jesus’ table this morning. In one boisterous, holy hubbub.
And I see us – members of this congregation, gathered with all the others who love Jesus around this Table in this house that you have built for God. Joining in the praise and reading the prayers from God’s people in so many other places and singing their songs and swaying to their music and there are even tambourines.
So come to this Table and receive the blessing and the love which Jesus has poured out for us here.