Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunder-peals, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready;
to her it has been granted to be clothed
with fine linen, bright and pure’—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’ Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow-servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
By Joe, Lay Reader at St Mary's.
May I speak in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
One of the benefits of being directed in our choice of readings by the Lectionary is that those of us preaching sometimes find ourselves dealing with readings that make us take a sharp intake of breath and say ‘Ooooer….’
At first thought, I doubt that any of us would choose to preach on the Book of Revelation in the middle of a global pandemic. But the Lectionary presents us with our reading from Revelation – and for many people expecting gloom and doom I think the content of today’s reading will come as a pleasant surprise.
I’d like to take the opportunity today to speak a little about the verses we heard this morning, but also take a slightly wider look at the Book of Revelation – also known as the also called the Apocalypse of John, Revelation to John or Revelation from Jesus Christ.
One immediate point to make is the use of the word ‘Apocalypse’ – it’s a word that has acquired negative connotations over the years. The Greek word ‘apocalypse’ is the first word of the Greek text of this book, hence it’s use in the title. And it simply means ‘unveiling’, or, more often ‘revelation’.
The Book of Revelation has a significant place in popular culture – as well as ‘the Apocalypse’, most people will have heard of ‘Armageddon’, ‘the four horsemen of the apocalypse’, the ‘pale rider’, ‘the whore of Babylon’, and ‘the mark of the beast’. Doesn’t exactly sound hopeful, does it? Conspiracy theorists love it, TV series and books like ‘The Leftovers’ and ‘Left Behind’ present a simplified view of the darkest aspects of it. Revelations has also been used by these folks to say that it has warned us against AIDS, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and even Covid19 vaccinations!
But the Book of Revelation is more than just source material for fans of Stephen King. In reality, for Christians, this book should be viewed as a book of great hope and warning; a source of succour for the persecuted Christians, assuring them that their suffering will not be in vain, whilst at the same time providing timely reminders and warnings.
It's not certain who wrote the Book of Revelation; for a while it was thought to have been written by the Apostle John, but nowadays it’s regarded as being written by a Christian Jewish prophet called John of Patmos, sometime around 95AD. There is some evidence within Revelation to suggest it was written during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian.
Revelation was one of the last books to be included as canonical scripture by the Christian Church. Martin Luther had some doubts about it – initially regarding it as “neither apostolic or prophetic”, Zwingli pulled no punches and went so far as to say “not a book of the Bible’ and it’s the only book of the Bible on which John Calvin didn’t write a commentary. Even today, whilst readings from it are included in the liturgies of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Protestant churches it isn’t used in Eastern Orthodox liturgy.
And it is the last book in the Bible – which is appropriate as it describes the end of the whole story of God’s relationship with His creation here on Earth.
Revelation could indeed be regarded as the ‘Somewhat eccentric uncle’ of New Testament scripture; invited to the party, respected, but you’re always rather nervous about what he’s going to say or do.
Today’s reading comes close to the end of the book. Prior to it are the sections that most people are aware of – the letters to the seven churches of the ancient world, the opening of the Seven Seals, portents of the End Times, the battles between good and evil and the war in Heaven. Using vivid apocalyptic imagery, the story of the struggle of the Church through the ages is told, culminating in the fall of Babylon in Chapters 17 and 18, along with the downfall of all those who had benefitted from that city.
Our reading starts with the sound of a great crowd rejoicing at this news in Heaven. We’re told of God’s victory:
“For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!”
God’s ultimate victory is coming to fruition. The next verses describe the next stage of the celebrations:
“For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)”
You can probably guess that ‘the Lamb’ is Jesus Himself; but who is the bride? Who will the Son of God be marrying? Well, the secret is given away a little later on in Chapter 21; it’s the New Jerusalem, coming down from Heaven. And this New Jerusalem is the Church; the body of people redeemed and united under God. Right now – January 2021 – we Christians are, if you like, engaged to Jesus – the marriage is yet to come but is what is being described here. And as well as being the bride, we hope that through our salvation and being faithful servants of Christ we’re also going to be guests, invited to the wedding feast. We can look forward to being those blessed by God:
“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”
John is overcome; he starts to worship the Angel but is admonished and reminded that the Angel is just a fellow-servant of the Lamb and not worthy of worship.
The final battle between good and evil, the destruction of the antichrist and false prophets and their followers is still to come. But the victory is assured.
We could be excused for saying “OK, but how does this affect me – right here, right now? What can I take away from this as I work in my little patch of the Kingdom?”
Think about being the Bride; we’re betrothed to Christ; we’ll be given fine, bright, clean linen to wear. What are we doing to keep that linen clean? What righteous acts are we performing in our daily lives? Are we staying faithful to Christ in these troubled times? Will our Lord be able to say to us ‘Well done, good and faithful servant?’
Times of darkness like now, when there is confusion, despair, when the false prophets of OUR day lie and deceive others and spread fear: these are the times when we need to be the light for our family, friends and communities. The darkness of the events described in Revelation frames a great light and the eternal victory of God.
When you go in to the world, stay faithful to God and take the light of Christ with you.
Speak the truth; carry out righteous acts as well as you can; be compassionate.
Keep your linen clean; it may seem hard going right now, but God’s victory is assured.
Prepared by Veronica.
In the power of the Spirit and in Union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.
Father and Creator of us all, we bring before you the needs of the world at this time of pandemic and many other problems. We pray for all whose lives have been affected by illness, bereavement or financial problems as a result, and pray for all working to alleviate suffering as Health and Care Workers, also Scientists working to produce new vaccines and other treatments. We pray for charities and international organisations as they work to alleviate suffering. Give wisdom and judgement to all political leaders, especially Joe Biden as he takes up office, to work together for the good of all the peoples of the world.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We pray for the Church worldwide and all people of faith, as communal worship is again difficult. Help us to show your love and caring for your people as far as possible, through donations to food banks and phone calls. We thank you that modern technology enables us to keep in contact with each other and also to join on-line worship with our partner churches St. John’s and St. Mark’s. We pray for the Diocese of Sheffield, our Bishops Pete and Sophie, our local clergy, and all who work so hard to maintain worship materials for our congregation at St. Mary’s. We thank you that it was possible to celebrate Christmas in Church, and look forward to being able to worship You together in Church in the future.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer
We pray for our City as the vaccine is rolled out, and for the amazing work of our medical staff and volunteers for their efficiency and good humour as they do so. We pray for our community of Walkley and all the organisations unable to meet at present, and that their members will keep in touch and pick up their work when it is safe to do so. We pray also for our local schools working under very difficult conditions, and particularly for the children whose education and social well-being is being so disrupted over two academic years.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We pray for all who are ill at this time, and their anxious relatives. May they know your healing presence is always with them.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer.
We pray for all who have died, from Corona virus or other causes. We remember those dear to us and also all who mourn the recent or sudden death of a loved one. At this Epiphany-tide keep us strong in the faith that your son Jesus came to bring us all, from north and south and east and west, to You.
Accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ