Honor, Power, Glory
May 5, 2019
Rev. Fritz Nelson
They pack the seemingly never-ending throne room. The elders. The angels. The living creatures. Myriads of myriads, thousands of thousands. All together – singing with one voice.
Now the Lamb is Jesus who sits upon the throne. The slaughtered lamb, for he was crucified. Who receives what each of us, at some level wants. Power and wealth. Wisdom and might. Honor and glory and blessing.
If only I could utter a word, or perhaps send out a tweet, and world leaders would jump and markets would move. If only my pile of bills would be replaced by piles of cash so high I’d never have to worry again. If only my phone would ring – sit for this interview, give a lecture, write a book. Imagine the line of cars, the traffic jam at 7 & 14 as the multitudes streamed into Columbiana and East Palestine to hear my every word, buy copies of my best selling book. I’d pull into my reserved spot in my fancy car, get out wearing my cool, designer clothes, enrich the masses with my brilliant words, end the service by cutting a million dollar check to charity each week. After leaving the packed masses hungering for more, I’d jet off to New York, or London, or Dubai, or LA.
The devil takes Jesus up on a high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All these I will give to you,” says Satan, “if you will fall down and worship me.”
A rich man comes to Jesus and asks what he must do to receive all the blessings of heaven. “Go,” Jesus tells the man, “sell your possessions and give the money to the poor.”
The mother of James and John, two of Jesus’ key disciples, comes to Jesus. “When this kingdom of yours finally happens,” she asks, “can you make sure to reward my children with positions of power and influence?” In response, Jesus tells his disciples: “The rulers of the world lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants. It will not be so among you. Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.”
Jesus receives power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing because the one who was first among all creation became last.
He emptied himself – as the great hymn in Philippians reminds us –
taking on the form of a slave, being born in human likeness
And became obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Great leaders conquer. They don’t wind up beaten and bloody on crosses.
Those in power take, take and take some more. They don’t give except as a way to buy favor.
Leaving fantasy land aside, I have to admit I have some power. I also have some wealth, some wisdom and might and honor and glory. I may not have the President’s private cell, but I have the mayor’s. I may not be on television, but you guys at least listen politely when I talk. I may not have a private jet but I have food on the table and a roof over my head. I may not hang with Bill Gates, but I’m on a first name basis with Rob Schwartz, the president of the Columbiana chamber of commerce.
Each of us has some amount of power – even if we feel powerless. Each of us has some amount of wealth – even if we feel broke. Each of us has some amount of wisdom – even if we feel as if nobody cares what we think. The question then becomes what do we do with it. Do we lord what power we have over those around us, becoming tyrants of the few? Or do we use what little power we have to strengthen and support those around us? Do we hoard what wealth we have? Or do we use our wealth to lift up those with less? Do spout whatever drivel or nonsense people want to hear? Or do we speak truth so those around us can come closer to God?
Jesus gives himself away. He receives honor and glory and power because he allowed himself to become as nothing. Hanging broken, empty upon the cross, Jesus opens a giant hole in the cosmos, in the eons, for the power and the grace and the love of God to come flooding in. The angels, the elders, the living creatures don’t sing because Jesus turned water into wine, multiplied food to feed 5,000 and raised Lazarus from the dead. The angels, the elders, the living creatures don’t sing because of Jesus’ incredible words of wisdom and instruction. The angels, the elders, the living creatures don’t sing because Jesus amassed thousands of followers, wrote best selling books, wore designer clothes, had multiple houses and cars and airplanes and yachts and turned down more speaking engagements and public appearances than he could fill in multiple lifetimes. The angels and the elders and the living creatures sing because Jesus gave so fully, so completely he revealed to us the immense love, mercy, grace and fullness of our God.
We can keep hording power until presidents and rulers not only return our calls but call us. We can keep hording wealth until we move from the 50% to the 10% to the 1% to the one tenth of one percent. We can fill stadiums with our speeches or athletic prowess. But none of that will feed our soul. None of that will fill our heart. None of that will matter in the throne room of heaven.
Only when we give it all up – when we release its power over us and become as one who is nothing, who is a slave to our neighbor, a slave to our God, will we open a pathway to heaven, will true, enduring, never-ending blessings flow. To us – filling our soul, our being, with the love, healing and peace of God. And, through us, to our neighbors.