This post is the fourth in a sixteen-part series. You can read the fifth chapter of Revelation by clicking here.
Notice the question being posed: "who is worthy to open the scroll?" (5:2b) When the Lamb takes the scroll the creatures and elders sing a new song: "you are worthy!" (5:9) Then the angels join this song, with full voice, "worthy is the Lamb."
This worth appears to have come about because the Lamb has formed a kingdom of priests to serve God from every tribe and language and people and nation. This language and imagery will be repeated again in the text appointed for All Saints Day, from Revelation 7, and numerous other times as well as this vision unfolds. In the final chapter we'll see a tree whose leaves are given "for the healing of the nations." (22:2) It's worth paying attention to the repetition and the clarity John seems to have about this part of the vision: to a beleaguered and weary and perhaps small struggling Christian community, John invites his readers to remember that we are part of a great multicultural cloud of witnesses from every tribe, language, people and nation.
It seems to me that one important aspect of the Church's work is to be moving toward implementing this vision in the context of a North American Church that remains in so many ways, as Dr. King put it, the most segregated hour of the week. We still have so much work to do! But I offer this testimony. When I'm not on the road in my travels across our diocese, I tend to worship with my wife at All Saints Church in Worcester.There, one gets a glimpse of what John saw on Patmos: an urban congregation where black and white and brown people whose family roots reach back to Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Asia all gather together around one Table. It is a place where Spanish regularly drops in alongside English as the prayers are offered. And the deacon came to this country from Uganda during the terrible reign of Idi Amin.
Those who would claim "the Lamb" for their own racist or cultural biases are taking the Lord's name in vain. And they are not paying attention to the new song that is being sung in the fifth chapter of John's Revelation: Blessing. Honor. Glory. Might.
Only God is worthy of our praise. All other penultimate authorities either serve God, or are working at cross purposes with God. It seems to me that one way to distinguish the difference is this: are we bringing God's people together, from many tribes and languages and peoples and nations? Or are we building walls that separate God's people from one another?