Sunday, December 28, 2014
Participating in the Virtues of God
11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
We experience an interlude in the breaking of the seals, one which serves as a bit of encouragement to the followers of Jesus Christ. Suddenly we have a picture of the heavenly realms in which we discover the Church universal where those who have been martyred are standing around the throne, along with all the elders and the angels. It is a vision of everyone worshipping God.
The "Amen!" is declared — the “so be it” of the event. God will provide eternal protection for those who are united with him.
This leads us to the seven-fold praise of the virtues of God, signifying the never-ending praise of God and a revelation of his nature.
This is also a recognition that humanity is invited to participate in the very nature of God, receiving these virtues by participating with him. Notice this list does not mention omnipotence, or eternity, for those belong to God alone. But, the Church and Christ’s followers are invited to participate in all seven of these good things. Amen!
This scripture is bittersweet. It is those who have experienced the pains of suffering and martyrdom who are also experiencing the joy of participating in the virtues of God. Life can be overwhelming at times and discouragement can set in. We can only begin to imagine what life was like for those first-century Christians who were beginning to face martyrdom at an alarming rate. Viewed as enemies of the State, the Christians were experiencing hostility at a level they had never anticipated. The brutality and suffering which they faced was more than they could express.
This Christmas season there are Christians who have faced overwhelming persecution similar to what those had happened for those early Christians. We are invited in, as the Church universal, to continue worshipping God — taking a break to praise and worship him, participating in his virtues. Then, we are encouraged to carry those virtues out into the world so that others might experience God’s blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power and might! Eventually the State which persecuted the Christians praised God. It took a few hundred years, but it happened as the believers refused to give up.
Being a Christ follower can be a bit discouraging these days. There are on-going reports on the demise of Christianity and the church. Christians are being martyred, butchered and murdered in parts of the world and we wonder how to respond. Sometimes there best thing to do is to join with John — take a break from the plagues and violence — and gather around the throne, worshipping God and his virtues. Over and over the remnant remains faithful and suddenly blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power and might break out. A little glimpse of heaven is revealed in our worship of God and in this we find encouragement — that God remains on the throne and is victorious. It is then that we are empowered by the fact that we are participating in something much greater than ourselves and his virtues fill us with encouragement.
There is no promise here that life will be easy. There is simply an invitation to worship in the midst of despair, and in worshipping we experience the Amen! And we go on to face the next plague or seal, participating in the virtues of God.
Lord, we worship you and your virtues today. Amen.