It's the end of the world as we know it.
The four horses and riders
The four horses and riders
I don’t think I ever remember hearing a sermon about the four horsemen of the apocalypse as a child or even as an adult. I do remember it from a Scooby-Doo cartoon, but it was much less scary than this version could be. Rarely do we read from Revelation, and it is even more rare that we would read this reading. Which is particularly why we’re reading it. To not read parts of the scriptures limits our understanding of who God is.
So, the four horses and their riders:
The first horse is _white_ and the rider presents the threat of _conquest_
The second horse is _red_ and the rider presents the threat of _violence/war_
The third horse is _black_ and the rider presents the threat of _economic insecurity_
The fourth horse is _pale green_ and the rider presents the threat of _death_
These were all real threats to the original audience of Revelation. They were also things that they were well acquainted with in their history. In some ways, reading the Hebrew Scriptures would put you very much in touch with these four things as being real.
I will say, in some ways, those don’t seem like very real threats today. We have the blessing of living in peaceful Canada, and are not under the threats of Conquest or Violence/War. Our Economy is doing well (at least in the latest figures I could find — 2.6% growth in 2016 in Ontario and 1.3% growth in Canada). Death is not something that I’m hoping or seeing as personally imminent. So are these REAL threats after all?
CNBC reported the other day that Putin is ramping up military exercises, that may lead to Russia’s next conquest.
Trump committed more troops to the war in Afghanistan, an “open ended” affair that sees no end in sight, and has renewed tensions between nations around the world.
The currency Bitcoin is increasing in value amidst uncertainty in the global economy (which I admit I have very little understanding about, however I do understand that if GoldmanSachs and JPMorgan are concerned about the economy, then we all have reason to be concerned.)
And while I’m hoping and assuming that death isn’t imminent for me, we all know that it will come at some point or other. This week, we heard of the passing of a well known comedian.
So, maybe these are threats that are more real than we’d want to admit — and even if we distance ourselves from them by saying they’re not happening for us, right now, in this place, they are happening, and probably closer than we think.
If the first part of the reading was characterized by threats and what could only be described as dread and fear, the second half of the reading is very different.
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.
What amazes me about this verse is it makes clear that people come from every nation, tribe, people and language. While we may not feel these threats are REAL for us, this verse helps remind us that they are REAL for our human family, and hence real for us as well.
The whiteness reminds us of purity of those before the throne — even as we know that none of us is ever really pure and blameless.
This group of people around the throne are the people who have come through the ordeals that were previously listed as threats:
And yet, how do they stand before God — before Jesus — if these threats turned ordeals are so real to them?
For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
Well, the answer is this: they worshiped God. Even in the midst of their ordeals, and the threats to their ordeals they worshiped.
Honestly, that isn’t easy. It is easy to get caught up in the fear of the threats and the reality of the ordeals. It isn’t easy to worship God through that.
And that’s why we’re here. We gather together as a community to worship and to help others worship — to witness to the fact that threats to all we know about life, don’t have power over us, and shouldn’t have power over others — to proclaim glory, laud and honour after the ordeals are done, and to help others do the same.
If my examples earlier have you worried about the state of the world — maybe even more worried about it than you were before you came in to worship — don’t be. Trust in our God.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
And for that we give thanks.