Sunday, May 18, 2014

Blessed are the Invited to the Lamb's Marriage Supper

I'm not preaching this morning at Central Woodward.Christian Church.  We're being blessed by my friend Sara Barton, author of A Woman Called: Piecing Together the Ministry Puzzle.  Sara and her husband are leaving our neighborhood for Pepperdine University, where Sara will oversee the spiritual life of the university, so this is our last opportunity to hear her preach.  In lieu of shareing my sermon, I want to share the second reading from David Ackerman's Beyond the Lectionary.

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Revelation 19:1-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)


19 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying,
“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power to our God,
    for his judgments are true and just;
he has judged the great whore
    who corrupted the earth with her fornication,
and he has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”[a]
Once more they said,
“Hallelujah!
The smoke goes up from her forever and ever.”
And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying,
“Amen. Hallelujah!”
And from the throne came a voice saying,
“Praise our God,
    all you his servants,[b]
and all who fear him,
    small and great.”
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying out,
“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready;
to her it has been granted to be clothed
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said[c] to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant[d] with you and your comrades[e] who hold the testimony of Jesus.[f] Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus[g] is the spirit of prophecy.”

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The Book of Revelation is a mysterious book, inviting many different readings, some of which seem downright dangerous.  But here in this passage, we hear word of divine victory over evil.  The gathered hosts of heaven rejoice, singing praise to God, "for the Lord our God the Almighty reigns" (Rev. 19:6).    Not only that, but the day of the marriage supper of the Lamb has come -- and the bride is ready.

The marriage imagery used here raises important questions about whether we are beholden to patriarchal forms of marriage.  And those patriarchal tendencies are present here.  I am a strong believer in egalitarian forms of marriage, so I do not wish to embrace a patriarchal model for human relationships.

With that caveat stated, I want to pick up on the eschatalogical wedding imagery present in the reading, and reflect on it in light of the Eucharist.  John envisions the heavenly realm in terms of a wedding feast.  Such feasts are always celebrations.  They can be grand or they can be simple, but at the center of the celebration is the wedding couple -- in this case a bride and groom who are joined together in the presence of the heavenly host.  They have now sat down for the great meal.

The question we might ask in response to the passage concerns the eschatalogical dimension of our own Eucharistic feasts.  While we take bread and wine in remembrance of Christ, can we not take bread and wine in anticipation of a grander feast -- a heavenly feast -- a wedding dinner.  In taking bread and cup we look forward to the day in which we will gather for the marriage supper of the Lamb, when we will be joined with Christ fully and completely.  Then there will be more than a morsel of bread and thimble full of juice -- there will be divine abundance.  We live now in anticipation of the full revelation of the realm of God, and the Supper of the Lamb serves as a reminder that our lives are determined by that realm and this one.  We don't live with our heads in the clouds, but we are not servants of the powers and principalities of this age -- for they have been defeated!  








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