Homily: Worthy is the Lamb

In our second reading today, from the book of Revelation, it says: “I John, had a vision of a great multitude. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, The One Who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst any more, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb will shepherd them, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

When the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists, a service was hastily improvised in one of the largest New York churches, where crowds of both believers and nonbelievers came together in search of whatever it is people search for at such times, some word of reassurance, some glimmer of hope.

“At times like these,” the speaker said, “God is powerless.”

While what he said struck me as appalling, it also struck me as true. When horrors happen, we can’t use God to make them unhappen.  All we can do is to draw close to God and to each other as best we can, the way those stunned New Yorkers did, and the way those brave Bostonians did last Sunday, and to hope that, although God may well be powerless when all hell breaks loose, there is nothing that happens, not even hell, where God is not present with us and for us.

© Frederick Buechner Center

It may surprise you, but the Bible has more to say about the cities and urban landscapes that it does about green pastures and still waters. And it tells about wars and tragedies and exiles. And then it uses certain images of pastures to impart a compelling vision of the city and, more broadly, what it means to live in community before God. And even then, we have to listen carefully to make sure we do not misunderstand the image and the message.

Last week’s reading from the book of Revelation said: “To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor forever.” The deepest mystery, at the center of the throne is that the Great Shepherd turns out to be a Lamb. Because He is one with the Father, He is able to hold us securely in His hand; because He is one of us, we can recognize His voice and follow the enigmas of our day.

If we envisioned our cities to be so intimately contained by God and governed by the Lamb, how would  it change our vision of the city, on the level of government and business and the market,? How would we live if we looked not to a CEO but to the most vulnerable Lamb, like, the poor in spirit, the Powerless, for direction and understanding, if we looked on the most troublesome and the vulnerable, the helpless and the persecuted..

If we could only be capable of being a sensitive and understanding people, capable of witnessing tragedy yet not be caught up in a reverse hatred and thirst for revenge. Do not expect the world to praise us for such remembering. Too often the world wants to be vindictive. But we are a people called to witness to God’s triumph over the terror and the world’s vindictiveness. We are called to be participants in God’s mercy, in memory of the Lanb once slain and slain still in the powerless.”

In facing our past and the suffering of the Lamb we become free, free to minister. Last week, the book of Acts Peter was told by the high priest to stop speaking in the name of Jesus. This week the leaders of the city are stirred up into persecution toward Paul and Barnabas. Throughout, the Jewish leaders are beset with anger and fear as they struggle to shut down the preaching of Jesus’ disciples. But not the disciples, who are focused on the dissemination of the gospel, And its mission affords them a joyful and resilient attitude.”

As the tragedies go on, they are seen in the presence of the Lamb in whose powerlessness we find our strength to proclaim: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power ad riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.”

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