SERMON: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ says the Lord God.

SERMON: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ says the Lord God.

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega says the Lord God.

A sermon preached at St Mary’s Iffley

by Andrew McKearney on 25 November 2018

 

The political life of our nation is febrile at the moment! We’re in a time of crisis and all the news outlets are full of it! Quite how things are going to work out is anyone’s guess! And at a time of crisis such as this, colourful language is sometimes used to try and convey the urgency of the situation. When our politicians and commentators use unusual language and imagery it’s because we live in unusual times! Normal language won’t do it!

Occasionally this type of language is referred to as ‘apocalyptic’. It’s called ‘apocalyptic’ because it’s stark and talks about the end of things as we’ve come to known them. It’s language that we’re familiar with from the Bible, and its every bit as unsettling and disconcerting in the religious sphere as it is in the political sphere. Why? Because it’s all about crisis, things being turned upside down, the natural order falling apart – and few of us relish that!

In the Old Testament it appears in places like the book of Daniel. That was where our first reading came from this evening. Apocalyptic literature occurs late on in the history of Judaism, influenced by Persian thought, in particular the religion of Zoroastrianism – I’ll leave you to do your own research into the teaching and approach of this religion that is still followed today!

In the New Testament apocalyptic literature is mostly in the book of Revelation where our second reading came from this evening. But it’s not just there. Disconcertingly it’s on the lips of Jesus in the three synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. You’ll recall those passages where Jesus talks about wars and rumours of wars, nation rising up against nation, kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes and famines, the sky darkening and the stars falling from the heavens. Throughout he keeps warning his disciples, saying ‘Beware!……Pray!…..Keep awake!’

In the religious sphere, it’s language of crisis every bit as much as it is in the political sphere, and it’s used for a number of reasons.

In part its purpose is to get people to wake up and realise the urgency of the present moment. It’s decision time! In the political arena we see all the different parties and politicians making up their minds, arguing their case, are you for the Withdrawal Agreement or against it. No more fudging! In the religious sphere there’s the same sense of urgency! Are you for God or Satan? Are you going to worship the beast or the lamb upon the throne? Time is short. The moment is now!

Another use for this strange language is to express protest. Sometimes in situations of oppression and persecution, it’s simply not safe to come out into the open to oppose those who are in power. So people find other ways of doing it.

Just this last week we heard about a Syrian radio broadcaster who has been broadcasting from Idlib, one of the last rebel strongholds in Syria. The Islamic fundamentalists told him to stop broadcasting music, so instead he broadcast birdsong, sheep noises, chickens clucking. He was then told to stop any female broadcasters from presenting on his channel, so he downloaded software that concealed their voices making it impossible to tell whether the presenter was male or female. He then stopped broadcasting from a fixed place and instead used a car to broadcast from, moving from place to place. Sadly, this last week, he was tracked down and murdered.

The stakes are high!

And in times of oppression and persecution you have to use all the tricks in the book to survive and get your message across.

The beast in the book of Revelation is given a number – 666 – and that refers to the emperor Nero who was persecuting Christians at the time. Apocalyptic literature is not unlike a political cartoon where it reads innocently enough unless that is you know what’s being referred to!

And finally another purpose to this strange literature in the Bible that’s called ‘apocalyptic’, is to puncture the pretensions of the rulers of this world, the tyrants, the persecutors, the oppressors.

They will not have the last word!

How does the book of Revelation end? With Satan being thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur, and the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband!

How does Jesus’ apocalyptic teaching end? With the Son of Man, coming in clouds with great power and glory.

And how does the book of Daniel end? As we heard, with one like a human being, given dominion and glory and kingship.

Keep faithful, persevere, hang on in there! The dark times, the difficult crisis won’t last!

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ says the Lord God.