“Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come”
Today we celebrate the “Reign of Christ” – and we sing some of my most favorite hymns of the whole year
And that greeting that I opened with is the opening verse from our reading from John’s Revelation
And What a powerful greeting that is
Powerful - yet in the culture of the day and in today’s culture extremely subversive
It is known as an apostolic benediction
A message or blessing from the early followers of Christ.
The greeting combines both Greek (“grace”) and Hebrew (“peace”)
Grace, that is, the good-will of God towards us and his good work in us;
and peace, that is, the sweet evidence and assurance of this grace.
It is message to not only one group of people - but all people
At the time and today a Subversive and counter-cultural message
And then we hear: “the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come”
Since before Abraham He “was” and “is” the "I AM"
and He “is” and "always was", the eternal Logos or Word;
consider the beginning of John’s gospel
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Jesus, not only “is” and “always was” but also "who is still to come" - the promise of the Return of Christ
God from everlasting to everlasting
Jesus is the Christ – the messiah – God incarnate.
Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end
Consider the world in which this is written - where the state religion is worship to the emperor - who was understood to be a deity
And consider our own culture today where everything is acceptable relative to the eye of the beholder
‘What’s true for you is true and as long as you respect what is true for me is my truth’ – relative truth
And today we celebrate the Reign of Christ
To all the politically correct statements of relative truth
today as the end of the year we Christians declare proudly that Jesus is the truth and Jesus the Christ reigns over it all
December 31st might be the end of the standard calendar year but today marks the end Christian calendar.
Feast itself is a relatively new feast,
Instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 - to celebrate 16th centenary of the Council of Nicea. (from which we get our Nicene creed)
It also was intended to affirmed the primacy of Christ in the face of rising nationalism and fascism
To this wonderful day we are given this inclusive greeting (Grace and Peace) and YET also a greeting which states the primacy of Christ
This was challenging to the people of the Roman empire, it was challenging in 1925 with the height of nationism and is truly challenging to the any worldly culture - at any time.
In that message of Christ in the past, present and future - everlasting to everlasting
there is a message of completeness
And in fact the entire reading from Revelation today is a message of completeness
We are given by John’s vision, John’s revelation that this is from the seven spirits
Where the Holy Spirit, called the seven spirits, it is not to be understood as seven in number, but the infinite perfect Spirit of God, in whom there is a diversity of gifts and operations.
- symbolically seven in Hebrew writing stands for completeness or wholeness
- Number seven in Revelations is used 52 times,
And we see it twice in today passage
The message of completeness continues with the mention of Christ as the “firstborn of the dead, and ruler of the kings of the earth”
Also “to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever”
In this short passage from Revelations John opens the stage to a limitless image
The Book of Revelations for some, is the most difficult book in the whole bible to understand. That is mostly to do with the fact that we don’t think in the same apocalyptic way of the Middle-east of 2000 years ago
However Revelations can provide an incredible vision.
It is the product of the marriage of hope and despair, of promise and pain.
It is a book/dream/vision/poem/letter written by John, an Apostle and disciple of Jesus
John records elsewhere in Revelations
That - he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more…
“See, I am making all things new.”
…“It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”
God through the words of Revelation offers us a vision of a brand new life;
A life lived in a brand new order in a brand new way.
The results of the Reign of Christ are all around us - if we have eyes to see them
I am reminded of a situation a few years back,
I watched as Jackson, my son, was going on the ice for skating lessons
He stopped skating just after he got on the ice to stoop down and say a few words of encouragement to a girl in his class
Now this girl is small for her age, she has big thick glasses and hearing aids, many physical challenges
This is her first sport that she has tried and her parents are somewhat nervous of this new venture
Jackson had only just turned six - he does know all of what is going on
He didn’t do it because I was looking, he didn’t look up at me at all in the stands
And he didn’t do it for anything is return
He simply got up and continued skating - not looking back at the beautiful smile on the girl’s face
This was not merely the moment of a proud father - this is a moment where I saw a vision Christ’s servant love, of the new creation - working through another
The book of Revelations presents to us some confusing and frightening images
Serpents and lakes of fire, and demented creatures
- but don’t be distracted by that – that is merely a style of story-telling
What we are to see through all of that, is the message that John intended
And it speaks precisely to what we are celebrating today “the reign of Christ – that Christ is the King
In the midst of this message today, and all of revelations, we are given Christ’s dominion over all things
no matter what comes against you in this life;
no matter if all of the power of pain and chaos of the universe seems to overtake you all at once;
no matter if you can not control one single thing or fix one single thing in your life,
the worst is over, the healing has already begun.
The lamb is on the throne.
Revelations, understood for our day, beyond the style of story
We have the nature of hope.
For Christians hope is not a wish.
It is not a tooth under a pillow,
Or fingers crossed
Or just one more 649 lottery try.
Hope, for a Christian is an assurance,
A firm and binding promise.
It is a sure thing.
Hope is not a feeling - It is a fact.
It is a fact rooted in the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
And assured by the amazing, steadfast, unshakable love of God for God's people.
God will not be shaken.
Hope is independent of circumstances and it ‘will never be’ conquered by evil. Even if hurt seems to be winning,
The battle by God - has already been won.
The clearest I have ever seen of faith in God’s promise, of the reign of Christ manifested in another, was when I was working at St Joseph hospital a few years ago during my CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education)
A man, by the name of John, who had been diagnosed with some obscure disease of an obscure gland which made him incredibly sleepy
So sleepy that he mostly could not keep his eyes open while awake, and was awake for only a few half hour periods over the day
this disease was so rare that his 60 year old doctor had only heard of it once distantly, and this was the first case that he had come across it
That if he had not recognized it, it would have put John in Coma
The disease was so rarely treated that treatment was mostly guess work
Remove the gland and then daily administer a drug that replaced the function of the gland
Even still the process to stabilization would take two years until John could get back to functioning even at 50%
John who was a farmer and worked 45 years of his life in physical labour
Would never be able to return to work
Yet John loved it when I visited
and with his wife beside him he told me slowly over what seemed like several minutes, filled with long periods of silence, because he was so overcome with sleepiness
Told me that “Jesus had truly blessed him - That God was truly good to him”
In his physically, pain filled slow words - there was such strength
John who was so week - made me who was strong: see the power of Christ
God paints a sustaining vision,
A vision wholeness,
A vision of things the way God intended.
A vision, in the midst of struggle and pain - there is the promise of glory.
Over the Christian year there is a kind of journey through the mysteries of salvation.
The end of the year, which we mark today, brings us to the end of the journey,
And here we find the victorious Christ enthroned in glory.
In faith we believe that He has indeed conquered the forces of sin and death,
and he is already enthroned with God the Father.
In anticipation, we look forward to his final glorious appearance.
We are living in the ‘here and now’ with the God that “is” “always was” and “is to come”
Today as we celebrate the “Reign of Christ” the end of Christian calendar year
We celebrate the triumph that is Christ’s dominion over all
Celebrate because the victory is offered to all of us
Let us pray - Christ was in the beginning, all things were made through him, He is here now and He is the promise, the hope on which our faith is rooted. Jesus, be the beginning and the goal of our lives, Come Lord Jesus, come reign in our lives - Amen