“Revelation” Part 2: “Worship for Believers in Exile”


If it’s been a long time since you’ve been to church, you might be wondering, “Does worship still matter?” Whether it’s because of COVID or because of your own religious deconstruction, you can tell yourself it doesn’t matter anymore. You’ve lost the habit and you haven’t missed it. Today in this series on the apocalypse we examine the theme of worship.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Is worship important?

If you question and deconstruct your faith, you may have concluded that worship is no longer important. If you’ve decided that God isn’t a grandfather in heaven who needs us to tell him how good he is, you’d be right. If you have learned that God is not an exalted earthly king on a heavenly throne, forcing subjects to bow down in dust and ashes, you are ahead of many believers. God is not a savings account that we make worship deposits into so that one day we can make a cash withdrawal. Neither does the Universal Being need to be appeased by our sacrifice of praise.

believers in exile

After realizing all these things, you can feel like a believer in exile.. You cling to remnants and shreds of faith, but feel separated from “ordinary Christians” either by physical distance or by a chasm of shifting belief. If that rings true, then John’s Apocalypse is for you. This was exactly the experience of the original audience of his Book of Revelation. Scattered believers with shattered dreams and visions, these former exiles did not know if their faith would survive, but something within them could not let go of the need for worship. Maybe the same is true for you.

Worship is organic

The book of Revelation depicts scenes of heavenly worship showing that the living God is not a grandfather, king, or heavenly ATM. God does not need to be worshiped for his own benefit, but simply because it is the wondering response of a grateful creation. My seminary teacher Glen Hinson said it best when he prayed, “Lord, we open before you like flowers before the morning sun. Worship in John’s Revelation is not organized, but organic—the awakening of God’s creatures to the Source of their being.

The celestial throne

John observes angelic worship as the heavenly court celebrates the Lord. Revelation 4:8-11 NASB says:

And the four living beings, each of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and inside; and day and night they keep saying,

holy, holy, holy East the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”

And when living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to He who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will be fall before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship He who lives forever and ever and who will cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

“Worthy art thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory, honor, and power; for you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.

Holy, Holy, Holy!

When we worship the Creator, we embrace mystery. Living creatures sing of the holiness of God. This word Holy means “other” or “different”. It means that God is not like us. Yes, we are made in the image of God, but there is a divine mystery that we can never reach, no matter how sophisticated our theology. The word “holy” acknowledges the numinous quality of God. It also reminds us to be humble, not to create God in our own image, to be exactly what we might expect. Believers in exile have rejected the doctrines they inherited from people who think they know it all. They have embraced the mystery of God and realized how little they know. This cry of “holy” is a similar acceptance of the unfathomable nature of God.

…Who Was and Is and Is to Come

Then the angels sing of the eternal quality of God. God “was and is and must come”. They declare that Divine Life is eternal, showing that God is reliable. The Almighty never changes but is the same now and forever. Believers in exile must remember that we have been around for about a century on this planet – and even millennia are a twinkle in the divine eye. An unchanging eternal God provides stability in the face of changing understandings. Although our notions of God continue to evolve, the Foundation of all Being remains stable.

Glory to God

Then we see that heavenly worship involves paying homage to God. No dollar falls on the plate, but instead living creatures give glory, honor and thanks. Is God somehow enhanced by these gifts, as if the Almighty becomes more glorious or more powerful than God was before, just because we declare glory and power? No, but worshipers grow spiritually when we surrender our own glory, power, and strength to God. By acknowledging God as the Source of all that is good in our lives, we remove ourselves from the throne in our own minds.

Casting crowns

The twenty-four elders cast their crowns before the throne. The church has too many peacock shows with people strutting around to show off their own glory. Whether parading proudly in beautiful clothes or displaying gifts in church or reminding people of lavish acts of service, Christian peacocks crown themselves. But celestial crowns (John meant this metaphorically, not literally) are never for our benefit. These are the egos that we surrender at the feet of the Almighty.

Who is God… not who God is not

Finally in this chapter, the elders proclaim, “For you created all things, and it was by your will that they existed and were created”. Believers in exile remember the things God has done. Deconstruction is a good thing because it cleanses our spiritual palate. But often we’re so focused on the things that God has do not made (created hell, demanded human sacrifices, declared war on unbelievers, etc.) that we lose track of what God at ended. We root when we fix our minds on who God Eastrather than on whom God is not.

A personal apocalypse

Believers in exile need to experience a personal apocalypse. apocalypse means unveiling. We must lift the veil from all the religious things we have learned so that we can see the Creator as God truly is. Rather than abandon worship as a sterile exercise for the spiritually immature, we can reinvent worship to embrace divine mystery and eternal qualities. When we honor God, we realize that instead of crawling, we are simply putting aside our own glory to practice humility. And when we tell stories of what the Spirit has done, we embrace the idea of ​​a God who is still active in the universe.

Revelation for Believers in Exile

John’s book of Revelation was written for believers in exile, just like you. Their world had changed, their faith had stretched. Some had given up and left the church altogether, while others held out hope that it would all make sense one day. Worship was a challenge for them, as it can be for you. But I pray that you will return to worship, even if it is alongside others who do not believe or practice the same as you. Because your worship is not about their belief or disbelief – this is yours. And because worship helps you see through the dust of deconstructing religion, so you can rebuild a relationship with God.

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