The Alpha and Omega -- Sermon for Easter 2C (Revelation 1)

Revelation 1:1-8

The Easter baskets and candy quickly went on sale this past Monday morning if not before so the stores can get ready for the next big holiday. Though the stores prepare for Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, the season of Easter is still with us. Eastertide reminds us that Jesus spent time with his followers after his resurrection, encouraging them for the journey ahead. Besides, in the Eastern Churches, today is Easter Sunday, what they call Pascha.  

This morning’s reading from the Gospel of John takes us to a locked room somewhere in Jerusalem on the evening of Jesus’ resurrection. While Jesus’ followers listened to Mary Magdalene once again give her account of meeting Jesus in the Garden, Jesus himself appears in their midst. When he appeared, he showed them his hands and feet, and his pierced side. Then as his followers rejoiced at seeing him alive, he commissioned them. He told them “as the Father has sent me, so I send you. Then he breathed on them the Holy Spirit, empowering them to forgive and retain sins. This is our commission as well, for we too have received from Jesus the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Jn. 20:19-31).

Now there was one disciple absent that evening. It took another visit from Jesus to convince Thomas that Jesus had been raised from the dead. After Thomas confessed his faith in the resurrection, Jesus in turn told him and us that those who do not see and yet believe will be blessed. So, we gather this morning as people whose faith is defined by the resurrection. 

With this as our foundation, we turn to the reading from the Book of Revelation. In this reading, we move from the confines of the Upper Room to God’s throne room. The message we hear in Revelation is cosmic in orientation. We encounter a man named John who writes from Patmos, an island sitting off the coast of modern Turkey. He writes to seven churches in Asia, bringing them a message from the one “who was and who is and who is to come,” who is accompanied by the seven spirits who stand before the throne of God, along with Jesus, the “faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” John brings this word to the churches of Asia because the “time is near.”

The Book of Revelation is a rather strange book. It’s filled with fantastical imagery that can be easily misinterpreted and misused. Therefore, many Christians steer clear of it. But I’m not one of them. That’s because even though the symbolic language that permeates this book can be confusing, I believe there is good news to be found here if we read it responsibly.

One thing you notice when you read through the Book of Revelation is that the message centers on the worship of God. John takes us on a journey that leads to the throne of God where we’re invited to join the heavenly host in worshiping the one who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. It’s in this spirit of worship that John seeks to encourage his brothers and sisters in the faith to stand firm as they face persecution and the temptation to accommodate themselves to the Roman imperial culture. 

According to Rome, Caesar is Lord and Savior of the world. So, just give Caesar your allegiance and everything will be okay. That’s a problem for Christians because we proclaim Jesus Lord and Savior and ruler of the kings of the earth. So, if Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not. If we follow Jesus, then we will embrace the values of God’s realm rather than the values of Rome or any other human entity.    

When John delivers this message to the churches of Asia, he wants them to know that whatever happens around them or to them, God is faithful. Even if they feel abandoned, they need to know that God has always been there, is there, and always will be there for them. As people freed by Christ from their sins, they can claim their priestly vocation and serve the God and Father of Jesus who will return in glory in the clouds. Yes, the one who died and was resurrected will return so that everyone can see him in his glory. 

When John speaks of Jesus returning in the clouds, he draws on an image from Daniel 7, where the Son of Man appears in the clouds and receives “dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples and nations, and languages should serve him.” This dominion of the Son of Man is everlasting (Dan. 7:13-14). 

What we read here in Revelation is shorthand for what is revealed in Daniel. So, put your trust in God, because even if things look bad, God’s love and justice will prevail in the end. Therefore, let us come before God in worship. As we do this we pledge allegiance to the one who is “the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” Indeed, I believe that the Lord’s Prayer is our pledge of ultimate allegiance to God and God’s realm.

As a Christian living in the United States, I face very few restrictions on how I practice my faith. Christianity might not have as much clout as it once did, but it’s still the dominant religion in the United States. In many places in this country, including here in Troy, clergy open official meetings with prayer. I’ve offered some of these prayers. Most of the time, these will be Christian prayers. 

Persecution isn’t something we generally experience, but the same can’t be said for Christians living in places like Iraq, Syria, and even Egypt. Christians living in what is the cradle of Christianity, many of whom are celebrating Easter today, face the possibility that their faith community could disappear from their homeland.

Many members of these ancient Christian communities have had to find shelter elsewhere in the world, including here in Southeast Michigan. That’s because we have strong Syrian, Coptic, Chaldean, and Assyrian Christian communities in our area. I believe that these Christians find encouragement in these words from Revelation. That’s because they can take hold of the promise that God is the Alpha and Omega, the one “who was, who is, and who is to come.” 

As for the rest of us, John has a different word. He wants to warn us about the danger of accommodating our faith to our culture. If we equate being an American with being a Christian, then we have traded our ultimate allegiance to Christ and his realm for a lesser kingdom. When we do this, we let our culture define what it means to be a Christian rather than Jesus.

So, as we remember in prayer our sisters and brothers who face persecution, may we also reflect on the temptation to live in ways that don’t reflect Jesus’ lordship. Let us remember what happened with the disciples in the Upper Room when Jesus breathed on them the Holy Spirit. He commissioned them to be agents of God’s realm, and Jesus also commissions us as agents of the realm. 

This morning as we gather for worship, we stand in the Spirit before the throne of God. As we share together our worship of God, may we put our trust in the one who is and who was and who always will be faithful to the covenant promises. And, as we do this, may we also take hold of the promise that permeates the Psalms. That promise is this: God’s steadfast love endures forever. Therefore, as the Psalmist also proclaims: “Let everything that breathes praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” (Ps. 150:6).

This reading from Revelation is an invitation to live in the Easter faith. As Charles Reeb puts it, John called the letter’s recipients, along with us, to “live their Easter faith boldly, because all the struggles of the present life are simply a prelude to ‘feasting at the heavenly banquet’” [Feasting on the Word, Year C, vol. 2, p. 395]. 

Now, I know that this may sound flippant. After all, life presents many challenges to our faith in God. Despite those challenges, John invites us to enter into worship as priests of God. As we serve God, we will find strength for the journey. We may not have certainty, but we can live in a faith nurtured by our worship of God. 

While Christian worship takes different forms, all worship is rooted in the message of Easter. So, if we look closely at this book, with all its strange symbolism, we will discover that the Book of Revelation is a book of worship. It invites us to enter the heavenly realm and offer praise to God. Yes, to worship the Alpha and the Omega is to be drawn into heaven. 

No matter what happens in life, whether good or bad, John reminds us that God will be faithful to God’s promises. That is because God is the Alpha and the Omega. Therefore, as we stand before God’s throne, we give glory to the one “who was, and who is, and who is to come!”

Preached by:

Dr. Robert D. Cornwall

Supply Pastor

First Presbyterian Church

Troy, Michigan

Easter 2C

April 24, 2022

Image Attribution: Christ Monogram with Alpha and Omega, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved April 23, 2022]. Original source:,_Sousse,_23_septembre_2013,_(24).jpg.


Popular Posts