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Revelation (selected verses) | The Good News – The Book of Revelation
The Good News – The Book of Revelation
Guest preacher – Ron Zemlicka
July 31, 2016
As I asked the kids, what did you want to be when you grew up? That’s my first question for each of you today. As you think about this for a moment, let me say to anyone who doesn’t know me, I am Ron Zemlicka. Today it’s my privilege to be standing here, talking to all of you, so our dear PCPC family members, Larry and Karen, can have well deserved time away with their family.
Now to answer my first question, I never planned on being a minister or a pastor. From the time I was in high school in Milwaukee pretty much the only job I had in mind was being a lawyer. I was the first member of my family to be fortunate enough to get an advanced education, and as a Midwestern boy I went to school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and to law school in Chicago at Northwestern University. I returned to Milwaukee and for much of my legal career I was the chief legal officer for a large Corporation.
I first visited Key West 30 years ago. My wife and I loved this island instantly, and decided it was a place we wanted to live. Now, if you were here last week you heard Jeff Smith also tell how he had a special feeling about Key West during his first visit and felt God had a specific purpose for him to be here. He literally gave up his life in Ohio, and came to our island on faith. I could tell you the same story, but Iwould be lying, a bad way to start off my message. Holly and I were more deliberate. After about 15 or 20 visits we bought our house here, then very unexpectedly, 16 years ago, I received an opportunity to come to Key West full time. I won’t go into the details (ask me after church if you are interested) but it was almost too good to be true.
I joined this church in 2006 and served on the Session twice for three years each time. It was my good fortune to be part of the search team that brought Larry here. But now, as I approach my 71st birthday I have this unique opportunity to be a preacher, at least for the day. The message for me, and I hope you, is try to keep an open mind and look for opportunities, and, as I will discuss later, the GRACE God presents you.
Now some of you may be thinking, gee I was looking forward to Larry, and now I have a lawyer preaching for the first time. YIKES! I promise to be short and to the point. Everything thing I say is going to respect the moral in a little story I heard years ago. It seems that a new minister finds his way to his NEW, small rural church. As the appointed hour draws near for his first service the minister finds only 1 person in the church, a rather old farmer. The disappointed minister approaches the man and asked, “Do you think anyone else will show up? Are you it?” The old guy says “yup, probably just me.”
The minister pauses, then asks,” Should I still deliver my sermon?” The farmer replies, “If I went to the north forty with a load of hay and there was only one horse I wouldn’t just turn around and return to the barn”. The minister thinks, GREAT, I’ll deliver my message, and so he does, all one hour and fifteen minutes of it. As he says good bye to the farmer the pastor feels compelled to ask, “Well did you like it?” The farmer, in quiet voice says, “If I went to the north forty and there was only one horse I wouldn’t dump the whole load.” With my first time in the pulpit I am not going to dump the whole load. Too much information can be worse than too little. A friend who is also a retired attorney often reminds me, when asked what time it is, do not reply with the history of watchmaking. I will be short and concise.
My Topic today is GRACE, and the good news from the book of The Revelation. However, BEFORE we examine the book of The Revelation, what exactly is Grace? It is a woman’s name. We all probably know someone with this name. There is very nice shop on Fleming St, Grace on Fleming. It is a synonym for a prayer before a meal. It is sometimes used to reflect luck, as in “but for the Grace of God go I”. And the Dallas Chief of Police Brown said he was able to continue his follow up work after the murder of police officers because of God’s Grace. The hymn that will follow this message, one of my favorites, is “Amazing Grace” Finally, Frederick Buechner, who I believe is one of Larry’s favorite theology scholars had this to say about GRACE.
GRACE IS SOMETHING YOU CAN NEVER GET BUT ONLY BE GIVEN. THERE IS NO WAY TO EARN IT….He goes on to say LIKE ANY OTHER GIFT, THE GIFT OF GRACE CAN BE YOURS ONLY IF YOU”LL REACH OUT AND TAKE IT
Obviously there are many concepts and definitions of Grace floating around our life, perhaps as many as there are people here today. So, what is it that I wish to say to you today about Grace? First, I am going to focus on a specific definition of GRACE? MY simple definition is derived from a story that was part of a sermon I heard many years ago and I want to share with you. In fact, if some of you may have heard before. If so, please listen anyway.
On Saturday morning Johnny was told by his Dad that he needed to tidy up his room and put his toys away. And his Dad also told Johnny that if he didn’t do what he was asked to do he could be punished. Well, at the end of the day Johnny’s room was just as big of a mess as it was in the morning. Johnny’s Dad said, “Son your punishment for not doing what I asked is that to go to your room without dinner”. His FATHER said “I believe your punishment is JUST, or stated another way, what you have received for misbehaving is JUSTICE”. Johnny went to his room and as he sat there, away from the family, without dinner, thought about the concept of JUSTICE.
A couple of hours later Johnny’s Dad, feeling sorry for Johnny, decided to take him some food. Johnny was puzzled, and “I don’t get it, I thought it was justice that I should be punished for not doing as you asked?” His Dad replied, “Yes that is justice, what you deserve for not cleaning your room. However, sometime we receive MERCY. What is MERCY, Johnny asked?” His FATHER replied, “MERCY, in your case ,is getting less punishment than you deserve. Your just punishment was not having a hot dinner with the family. MERCY is getting some cold food in your room. Your punishment, with MERCY, is LESS PUNISHMENT THAN you deserve (some food, not a family dinner)”.
Just as Johnny was thinking about and trying to understand the difference between JUSTICE AND MERCY, Uncle Charlie arrived, very unexpectedly. He was EVERYONE’S favorite. And almost immediate Uncle Charlie, not knowing that Johnny had been punished and was in his room, said, “Come on, I’m taking everyone out for ice cream.” Before Johnny had even a moment to think about what he might be missing because of his punishment his Dad entered his room and said, “Come on, Uncle Charlie is taking everyone for ice cream”. Johnny said to his father, “I don’t get it JUSTICE AND MERCY, and now ICE CREAM?” His Dad said that ice cream from Uncle Charlie is not something Johnny, or perhaps anyone in the family, had earned or even deserves, but it is a form of GRACE. “You see son”, the FATHER said, “GRACE is something you can’t earn and don’t deserve, but is to be accepted”. After pondering all of this Johnny said, “I think I’ve got it, JUSTICE (AS A PUNISHMENT) is getting what I deserve, MERCY (some cold food) is getting less punishment than I deserve, and GRACE is getting something I don’t deserve. Yes”, said his FATHER.
Now, with these three defined terms in mind, let’s take a look at the book of The Revelation. How many of you have ever read the book of The Revelation? I bet many, perhaps even most people, think it is the scariest book in the Bible. And there are many scary images in those 22 Chapters and 21 pages. That’s right just 21 pages. And did you know it was written by John for the context of the times, with lots of metaphors. Many Biblical scholars, people much smarter than me, say The Revelation is not meant to be taken literally. In Sunday school a few years back we spent a couple of months studying a book written recently, “Interpretation for Modern Man, The Book of Revelation by C. Stephen Byrum. The book uses a quarter century of biblical research to present all the words and images in a common sense and rational manner, with integrity. I won’t go into detail about the discussion of the images (I would definitely violate my promise to be brief and concise), but the author, near the end of the book, says “ Having looked at the book (and the images) inside out, what must be done with it? Where is the bottom line?” He concludes “I personally cannot follow the avenue of fear. Once the material in The Book is set aside, I have a sense of relief. It no longer commands the energy of your interests, and those energies can be used for something else”. On his last page he adds, “Used for what? Keeping these thought in mind, and my definition of Grace as well, let’s look at what John has written in The Revelation.
John, before he delineates all the scary stuff, you know THE BEAST, 666, you pick any image you wish, brings us God’s Grace. He starts, “DEAR FRIENDS: MAY YOU HAVE GRACE AND PEACE FROM GOD WHO IS, AND WAS, AND IS TO COME”. As John progresses with his horror show of words and images, he pauses in Chapter 9, verse 12, to state “ONE TERROR NOW ENDS, BUT THERE ARE TWO MORE COMING”. Obviously not a happy note, but it is only the middle.
Let’s think of this TERROR in the context of John’s time and today. Perhaps all of John’s images, as written, would be tame compared to the Hollywood version of The Revelation, were it to become a movie. I don’t play video games, but maybe the images creates by the people who create these games could make The Revelation even more horrifying than even the written word of John. Do you remember the 1950’s horror movies, THE BLOB, all sorts of space invader movies with Martians who had antennas? All of this was pretty scary for the times, but almost comical by today’s standards of horror movies. Similarly, John wrote for the times in which he lived, with images that would resonate with his audience.
HOWEVER, the scariness of the images, then or now, is not the main point of The Revelation. Although the images of terror occupy the vast majority of the pages of The Revelation, the terror images are not the COMPLETE MESSAGE. Would a movie or the video game present the COMPLETE version of The Revelation? What do I mean by complete? I’ll answer my question with another question, do any of you, when reading a book, like to skip to the ending? If we skip all the gory details of The Revelation, and go near the end of the book, John states IN CHAPTER 21, VERSE 4, “TEARS SHALL BE WIPED AWAY AND DEATH, SORROW CRYING AND PAIN SHALL BE GONE FOREVER.” And finally if you go to the end of Chapter 22, God’s last words in the Bible are “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
Grace, ICE CREAM IF YOU WILL, is available from God for all of us. The good news, starting with the beginning, continuing throughout and punctuating the end of John’s words in The Revelation, and the Bible’s last words, are God’s GRACE. The good news from the book of The Revelation is GOD’S GRACE.
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