“Two Places at Once”                                                                           April 6, 2013

Revelation 1:4-8                                                                                    Stephens City UMC

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

I.              The following is fact: you cannot physically be two places at the same time.

A.   You are either here or you are there but not simultaneously.

1.    Will Willimon who travels a lot because people want to hear him preach and teach tells of the time he took off in an airplane from an airport in New York City very early one morning.

2.    He saw the sunrise over New York Harbor.

3.    That evening he sat at a beautiful seaside restaurant in Malibu, California.

4.    He saw the sun rise on one end of the country and then saw the same sun set on another.

5.    That’s quite an experience but he was not in two places at the same time. (Willimon, “Here and There,” April 6, 2013).

B.    Willimon is telling the truth about his experience but John the writer of Revelation is also true to his experience and he explains how he was two places at the same time.

1.    Because of his Christian faith John was exiled on the island of Patmos.

2.    Today you might want to visit there because resorts with wondrous beaches await you, but back in John’s day and age it was a place you did not want to go.

3.    That’s because it was sort of an ancient Alcatraz.

4.    The Roman Emperor would send political trouble makers (and Christians fit into that category) there to rot.

5.    The authorities would provide you with a one way ticket and once there you weren’t coming back. (Willimon, “Here and There,” April 6, 2013)

C.    But John writes that while he was physically exiled, that he was free “in the spirit.”

1.    He did not allow his physical location to define him; instead he allowed his spiritual location to define him.

2.    Now John had every reason to be spiritually low – even down and depressed but despite what he saw around him his spirit was high because he experienced the presence of the risen Lord whom God raised from the grave on Easter.

3.    The effect was that he felt gratitude rather than grief.

D.   Today is Low Sunday on the church calendar – low not just because there’s a big drop off in worship attendance one week after Easter but also because our spirits have a tendency to drop off and become low after the high of Easter.

1.    Normally from the Lectionary I would have decided to preach from John 20 where Jesus appears to the fearful disciples in the Upper Room following his resurrection and Thomas (the doubter) is absent and Jesus has to return later to engage Thomas in conversation and witness to him the nail prints and other wounds from his crucifixion to enable Thomas to believe.

2.    That’s what I normally would preach on but as I prayed over the Lectionary the passage from Revelation spoke to me as this is the only time in the three year cycle that there is a reading from the first chapter of Revelation.

3.    I think it spoke to me because while all of us can get physically low, what is a more common experience unfortunately is that we get emotionally and spiritually low.

4.    We get down in the dumps and might describe our experience as being in a spiritual Patmos.

E.    And that’s when the good news of the resurrection transports us so we can be two places at once – physically in one place and spiritually in another.

1.    Your life situation may be that you feel like you are trapped, imprisoned, entombed and can’t get out.

2.    You are just stuck – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

3.    But this is the Lord’s Day and he is risen – alleluia!

4.    As I said last week Jesus isn’t done talking or done walking and the Lord is on the move.

5.    And because he is on the move you can move.

6.    Your physical circumstances might not change, but absolutely, positively because of the resurrection your spiritual circumstances can change.

7.    Whenever you find yourself in that down situation remember that you are the Lord’s and he knows you by name.

8.    Moreover, recall what John saw in his vision – a new heaven and a new earth and because of Jesus you will be part of that new heaven and new earth.

F.    My hope for you on this the second Sunday in the season of Easter is that you will catch that vision because that is the vision of the true reality.

1.    So often you’ll hear preachers proclaim “Let’s all get motivated by our worship this morning to go out and serve the Lord in the real world” but it seems to me that God is saying that this is not the real world.

2.    The real world is the kingdom of God.

3.    This world is unreal because there is hunger and disease and sadness and sorrow and fear and sin and death.

4.    In the real world as God defines the real world there is plenty and health and wholeness and happiness and assurance and forgiveness and everlasting life.

5.    The bad things I named earlier do not exist in the Kingdom of God and John saw that in his vision.

6.    Holy Communion is a visible and experiential way of seeing and being part of the true world that exists in the kingdom of God.

7.    At this table is the physical and spiritual food that you need.

8.    At this table people gather as brothers and sisters and not as enemies.

9.    At this table the resurrected Lord is present with us and he is not entombed nor are we.

10. By this meal the Lord Jesus Christ transports us from this fallen, confused and corrupt world and we are enabled to enter the true new world that is the kingdom of God.

11.According to God’s definition this world is a fantasy, and a bad one at that, but we can be transported to the true “reality” which is the heavenly kingdom where God’s will is done.

12. And like John I make this proclamation to you because of my confidence in the one who is the Alpha and the Omega and “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)