Urbana18: Nothing new in Revelation

[NOTE:  This year, I have the opportunity to play drums for the Urbana conference and be the band chaplain.  From their site:

Urbana is a catalytic event bringing together a diverse mix of college and graduate students, faculty, recent graduates, pastors, church and ministry leaders, missions organizations and schools.

I’m posting thoughts/reflections on being musicians, ministers, and mission-minded that are shaped by scripture, tradition, and our own experiences.  This year, Urbana has chosen the theme “Faithful Witness” and the book of Revelation to discern our role in God’s mission for the world.  I’m also using a rubric of character, competency, chemistry, and culture to organize thoughts and ideas.]

Eugene Peterson says that there is nothing new being said in the book of Revelation.  I found that deeply profound given that my pentecostal/dispensationalist background gave me a sense that Revelation was about futuristic, catastrophic events occurring on earth.  Rapture.  Wars.  Famine.  Earthquakes.  The Anti-Christ (Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, The Pope, Barak Obama, Trump).

So when I read Psalm 93:1,25, I was yet again reminded of Peterson’s adage:  there’s nothing new being said.  God has been saying it “…in the beginning”.

The team has been thinking about Revelation 4-5, which has been dubbed “The Throne room scene”.  What John saw then is what the Psalmist says thousands of years prior:

1 The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;

the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.

2 Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.

Your statutes, Lord, stand firm;
    holiness adorns your house
    for endless days.

Why does the Lord reign?  And why is that good news?  And how does the Lord rule and reign?  That’s probably the most important question for me.  In other words, whose in charge and are they worthy of leading?

In the marketplace, a company takes its shape and form from the leaders (those who rule and reign).  The manner of leading trickles down the pike and influences each person.  Leadership is very important.  It sets vision and values which impact the culture of a company.

As Christians, we profess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  He rules and reigns with justice, mercy, and unfailing love.  That’s a great description of a leader!

As musicians leading people in worship, I’m a bit holy-scared!  How and why is that God would choose to use some rag-tag people with unclean lips and impure hearts to lead people into His throne room?  I’m not trying to paint a sad picture of our depravity, but in some ways, God’s presence doesn’t allow me to stay unexposed.  All things are brought to the light and because he rules with justice and mercy, I’m in good hands.

Someone taught early on my musician formation that we play because we motivated and compelled to worship the living God.  When I play at church, people come up to me and say, “I knew it was you playing today…I could feel you.”  That means a lot to me because I want every beat to a passionate prose of worship to the living God.  I’m captivated by this Jesus as King figure!  I’m moved by His love for me and for you.  And I want the music to reflect it.

Acts 1 Thoughts and Reflections pt.1

As a follower of Jesus, we seek to model His life by attending to His teachings and deeds (see Acts 1:1).  Jesus can be found having meals with disciples and giving them instructions for following Him and about the Kingdom of God.  After He suffered and was raised to life, Jesus made it a point to reveal Himself to the disciples and show them convincing proofs that he was alive (Acts 1:3).

As He is about to ascend, Jesus comforts the disciples with a new promised gift.  I’ve noticed that some people, at the end of their lives, gift others with words of blessing, guidance, or a loving assurance.  This shows a Figure that is aware of the human condition–our propensity to grieve loss.  The Christ Figure shows a deep compassion for His followers.

I think in a cultural setting where we feel pressed by violent acts (the recent Texas church shooting), we seek answers to why this type of violence is increasing.  I don’t have sociological or psychological answers as to why this phenomena is occurring but I do believe that Scripture teaches that God is near us during our losses and is seeking to gift us in our times of deep loss [note:  this is not a post to try and figure out what is happening with mass shootings].

I also believe we struggle, as a culture, to create a sense of long term community with others.  We seek our own comfort in our air conditioned homes, DIY projects, TV/Streamed entertainment, and any other hobbies we might have.  But we don’t make room for intentional shared meals with others so as to build community and connection.  Yet Jesus is constantly doing that.

Lastly, Jesus promises the empowerment and gifting of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses in our community, city, and world.  Jesus teaches and demonstrates a life of wholeness that always involves inner/relational/communal wholeness.  As Miraslov Volf says,

A good nation…
Is one in which all inhabitants are given the conditions, opportunities and the tools to have a flourishing life – that is, a life of righteousness, justice, peace, and joy. (via FB post)

The empowerment of the Spirit and the life Jesus models is a culmination of something I long for.  I can spend the time to host a monthly community dinner, have others over my house that I won’t necessarily benefit from (Luke 14:12-14), and serve others as Christ would–with dignity, respect, and love.