The Heart of the Matter

Sunday, July 28, 2019
Pastor Mark Aune

Revelation 5:1-14 

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

One of the things I heard from my colleague Pastor Langness as well as other program staff when I arrived here 30 years ago was a phrase that was used at staff meetings, new member classes and other occasions that required conversation about who we are as a Christian community of believers.

The phrase is worship is the most important thing we do here.

It was used as a way to remind us as staff, as well as share with new members and the leadership of the congregation, that worship is the most important thing we do here.

There are a lot of resources devoted to worship at Augustana and there is a lot of planning and hard work that goes into worship at Augustana all because we believe it is the most important thing we do here.

It is not meant to say that other things we do aren’t important because they are but worship is unique in that we are modeling something that happens in heaven. We are doing something in common with angels and the 24 elders and the four living creatures that surround the throne of God. Worship grounds us in our relationship with God as creator and helps us understand and live out the distinction between the creator and those whom God has created.

Heaven is where we are this morning as we read and listen to Revelation chapter 5. John’s vision of heaven and the throne room begins in chapter 4. It starts this way.

At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal.

If you have ever wondered what heaven looks like read Revelation chapter 4. It is very evocative. In John’s vision he describes something we all yearn to see.

Chapter 5 continues the scene in the throne room and God is holding a scroll, a decree from God. We don’t know what it says and a mighty angel proclaims with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”

The answer is of course no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered.

It is at this point in the vision where we are introduced to someone we already know.

“What John hears about the lion recalls promises from the Old Testament, and what he sees in the lamb reflects the crucifixion of Christ. Both images point to the same reality.”[1]

We worship a slaughtered lamb. We worship a Lamb who has conquered sin and death.

We follow a savior – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And the words of the angel to John begin to make sense – do not weep.

It is a strange image to use when we also hear words about conquer and mighty and worthiness yet this is how God decided to deal with the problem of sin and the broken state of the world by sending a sacrificial lamb.

Jesus is that Lamb, standing as if it had been slaughtered. And the 24 elders and the four living creatures who are around the throne of God sing a new song. A song of worship and praise.

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.”

We are those saints from every tribe and language and people and nation. We worship a crucified Savior whose blood has set us free to be people of God who serve God.

Worship is the most important thing we do and it is what we will do when we get to heaven.

Why do you worship? Have you ever asked yourself that question or given it some thought and reflection.

In a small poll I took this week some answers to this questions were – I worship to reaffirm my allegiance to God.

I hear the promise of forgiveness.


Worship is our connection to God.

I wonder about the connection between worship and trust. Which comes first? Trusting God or worshipping God? What do you think?

When the evidence in our lives points to heartache, despair and brokenness, evidence of God can be hard to see and experience.

Which is exactly why we worship. Worship and praise creates trust and trust deepens our relationship with God.

Worship anchors us to the promise made by the Lamb of God.

Worship keeps us tethered to God and to the community that gathers each Sunday. What we do in worship is a tiny replica or glimpse of what will happen in the heavenly throne room.

We show up for worship clothed in our human frailties, our petty complaints, and our daily struggles that seem to dominate our anxious selves that draw our focus away from God.

And then in worship, our eyes and our hearts are lifted up to see the one who is seated on the throne, the lamb who was slain, who is worthy to receive honor and glory and power and might.

Worship changes us from the inside out because it draws the focus from our lives and places the focus on God and the Lamb. We see in the slaughtered Lamb the love of God for us, the one who died for us, and the one who cleanses us from all sin.

We understand in worship that we are washed clean and made whole once again.

This is why it is so important and it matters.

The image of the lamb is used 29 times in Revelation. It captures and sums up for us the unorthodox manner by which God has saved us. In chapter 7 we hear these words about the lamb; 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.”

The lamb becomes the shepherd, the good shepherd.

Leading us to still waters, green pastures and restored souls.

This is the one we worship in the house of the Lord, now and forever more.

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,

“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might
forever and ever!”

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

[1] Revelation and the End of All things; Craig Koester p.78

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