“When we begin to glimpse the reality of God, the natural reaction is to worship Him. Not to have that reaction is a fairly sure sign that we haven’t yet really understood who He is or what He’s done.” (Bishop N.T. Wright: “Simply Christian.”)
For most of us the book of Revelation is not all that revealing. Some of us even use it as a key to decode hidden secrets and predict the future. That’s certainly not what the inspired author meant by his words. In the readings from Revelation yesterday and today we get a peek into the heavenly liturgy – an unremitting celebration of praise and thanksgiving. The author – John, “the Seer” – is describing a current event, not a future happening. It is taking place in the heavenly dimension, not in the human, worldly dimension. The splendor and grandeur he sees is such that words fail him. There is nothing in human experience – and in the human vocabulary – to describe what’s going on. He resorts to fantastical imagery. All the animals and elements, all of humanity, praise God. Why? Because they are awed by His grandeur, His power, His gracious self-giving. And because they all realize, as created beings, that they owe their very existence to Him
Think of the palpable gratitude of those rescued in Louisiana from the floods of Hurricane Isaac last summer or those rescued from Sandy just last month, gratitude for their rescuers. Think of your own awe at viewing pictures taken from the Hubbell telescope – a created cosmos of unimaginable vastness and beauty. It’s not so much that, by comparison, we seem small and insignificant. So we may be, but that keeps the focus squarely on us rather than on the God who creates and sustains it all. In the presence of God the only conceivable reaction must be awe and praise and thanksgiving. In the words of Bishop Wright “worship” ultimately means recognizing – and acknowledging – the worth of someone.
This heavenly liturgy sets the tone for our own earthly celebrations which must always be – as the term “celebration” indicates – joyful, glad, upbeat – focused on God’s goodness not on our unworthiness.
Of course we’re unworthy! Everyone knows that. But the celebration is not about us. The truly good news is that God invites us to the banquet anyway. That’s worth celebrating.