Rev. Drew Stockstill
Worthy Is the Lamb
January 30, 2022 Rev. Drew Stockstill
Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And 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, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
They sing a new song: “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.”
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
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!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
Friends, I’m wondering, what do you think could possibly unite all the people of earth today? Is there anyone who could bring the people of this planet, or even this nation, or even this city together? Can you imagine that? There have been moments in history where it felt like there were areas where some people came together. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, most of us here remember a sense of national unity, a coming together. Is there anything that could do that today? Former President George W. Bush, gave a speech on the 20th anniversary of those attacks, just down the road in Shanksville where Flight 93 crashed. Here’s what he said:
“In the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, I was proud to lead an amazing, resilient, united people. When it comes to the unity of America, those days seems distant from our own. A malign force seems at work in our common life that turns every disagreement into an argument, and every argument into a clash of cultures. So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear, and resentment. That leaves us worried about our nation and our future together. I come without explanations or solutions. I can only tell you what I have seen.”
What do you think? On this, the realist in me tends to agree with Mr. Bush. The division, anger, fear and sadness of our day now seems to be so solidified that it’s hard to imagine what on earth could bring us together. But that is exactly what the job of a prophet is, to help us imagine what to us seems inconceivable, to help us see a possible reality that we cannot see without eyes blessed by God. That is what Saint John is here to reveal to us in Revelation. He shares what he has seen: and it’s a vision very different than Bush’s, and maybe many of us here. John’s is a vision of hope, of love, of heaven and earth joined in cosmic, holy celebration and worship. John has seen a vision of unity, and not just unity of a nation, unity of all creation, all humans and animals, all that have ever lived and all that have yet to live, all that are on earth and all that are in heaven, humanity, and angels, and six-winged creatures, united in worship of God.
But where John starts is in a place a lot like our own time. See, Saint John was living under the rule of the Roman Empire. Christians and Jews in his day were being ruthlessly persecuted: tortured, killed, imprisoned, cast away on the Island of Patmos. It was a time of great fear, of hopelessness. It was hard for people of faith in God to imagine being free to worship God, to come together publicly without fear, to experience unity with other Christians, Jews, Romans. That’s where John was when he heard that voice like a trumpet calling him to look at what’s coming from heaven. When his vision begins he is full of fear, and the Son of Man comforted him saying, “Don’t be afraid.” Does anyone here today need to hear that word from heaven, “Don’t be afraid,” Don’t worry. Well, let me tell you what I have seen from John: God is on the throne today so don’t be afraid.
Then John saw the one on the throne was holding a scroll that was sealed with seven seals. It is some kind of official document, perhaps a royal edict. John can’t tell what it says but he can see it has writing on both sides, it is a complete word from God. Whatever it says we know it is God’s will, God’s word. And then this great angel appears and asks, “Who is worthy to open this scroll?” And the answer of course is no one. No one on earth, no human, no animal, no one in heaven of the 24 elders, and the four creatures, and even the angel. No one is worthy, which is very distressing to John who begins to weep bitterly. Why? Well, can you imagine being this close to God, this close to finally hearing God’s word straight from the hand of God, to finally understand the mysteries of God’s will but then, no one can read it? It’s too much for Saint John and he’s undone. Until one of the elders says, “Don’t 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.” He’s talking about the savior, about Jesus Christ.
Of course, Jesus would be there somewhere, the son of God. He’s worthy. So, John begins to look for this lion. But he cannot find a lion. And then, he says, “I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes.”
You know, the people of Israel were looking for a mighty conquering warrior to be their savior, the messiah, but who arrived, but Jesus, the common man from Nazareth. We heard in the gospel reading how in his own home town, people had trouble seeing him as more than the son of Joseph, and when he suggested he was indeed that and so much more, what did they do? They tried to throw him off a cliff. They were expecting a lion, and who did God send? A lamb, and he was slaughtered.
Saint John was looking for that mighty lion, and who appeared from among the thrones of worshipping elders, but a lamb. But this is no ordinary lamb, beloved. This is no little, fluffily cuddly lamb. This lamb has seven eyes, because this lamb has seen some stuff. In fact, this lamb has seen it all, friends. And this lamb has seven horns and he knows how to use them. This lamb rooted through the earth, battled the forces of evil, fought his way back from death, and this lamb bears the marks: a gash down its neck, for this lamb has been slaughter, killed, and not even death has defeated this lamb. Who needs a lion, when you have this lamb. “Who is worthy to open this scroll and reveal the judgment of God?” No one, until from out of nowhere steps this lamb. With steady hoofs, full of power and holy swagger, this lamb walks right up to that throne and he takes the scroll.
And, my God, at that moment you could hear a pin drop. And then all heaven breaks loose. It’s like a rock star has stepped onto the stage. A tsunami of worship erupts from the throne room and moves out across the universe and throughout even all times. First the throne room breaks out in song. The elders who had been falling before the throne now throw themselves before the lamb. They sing this new song. “You are worthy,” they sing to the lamb, “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.”
Then suddenly appears millions of angels and they are singing, “in a loud voice.” Can you imagine a choir of a million angels singing as loud as they can? I hope Saint John had some ear protection because that would be overwhelming. And they sing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I guess what was happening in heaven was so loud that it was heard throughout the earth and under the earth, and even in the sea. The word is out, that this lamb, and no one else, has the scroll, the word and will of God, the righteous judgement, and that, my friends, that is exactly what unites the people of earth. Because, and you know this, Bush knows this, there is nothing and no one on earth who will unite us. There is no president who will heal the wounds of this nation, there
is no king who will bring all their people together, there is no alliance of nations that will be able to keep the forces of evil and war at bay. No person is worthy and no person is able to overcome this sin and evil that has broken this creation. And it’s so backwards here that there is sometimes hope that an act of terror and not an act of love is the only thing that can unite us. But it’s not true. I’m here to tell you, there is good news today! For while no person is able to step forward to heal us, and while that may make you want to cry as bitterly as Saint John, one does indeed come forward and that is the lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The lamb who is has seven eyes, complete vision because that lamb has seen everything that you have gone through, everything you have done, that lamb who has battle horns because this lamb has been with you fighting every one of your battles with you, getting you through every heart break,
every loss, everything you have gone through, that lamb has been there with you, seen it all and felt it all. And that lamb bears the wound of every act of violence ever enacted on earth, that lamb has been through every one of your pains, that lamb has died your death, and every death, and that lamb was not defeated, and that lamb means we will not be either. And that lamb is the one who is worthy to take the word and will of God, and that lamb alone is the one who will pass judgement on you and on the whole creation.
And beloved that is good news.
I think someone here today, or someone listening has felt judged and felt inadequate, felt unworthy of love. But no one gets to pass that judgment on you, for the lamb has seen what you’ve gone through, knows your power and your vulnerability. And no one but that lamb, who knows all your truth is going to get the final word on you.
I bet someone here or someone listening has worried about whether they measure up. Worried if they’re a good enough Christian. Feared that the mistakes of their past will forever haunt them. But no one but this lamb, who knows who you really are, who loves you and forgives you, only he will pass judgement on you.
I know someone here and someone listening has been hurt before and carries that pain today. And this lamb went through it with you, he saw it all. And he’s the one who will have the final word.
Beloved, this is the best news. God who created every life and called it precious and good, also loved us so much that God never leaves us alone in it, has seen it all and became vulnerable enough to live every weakness and, fight every battle, suffer every cancer treatment, every job loss, every innocent death, every skinned knee, every act of violence, every hug, every kiss, every goodbye, every welcome home, every I love you, every betrayal, every doubt, this lamb alone is worthy to pass judgement on you, for he alone knows the truth, your truth. And here is what the scroll will finally declare, here is the judgement he alone is worthy to carry out: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.” “And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.” What better news could we ever hear?
 From, “Remarks by President George W. Bush at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania,” September 11, 2021. https://www.bushcenter.org/about-the-center/newsroom/press-releases/2021/09/remarks-president-bush-shanksville-9-11.html