While my annual report is not quite like a sermon, I did take some time today to study what would have been my sermon text on April 18, Revelation 5:11-14, since it will give some shape to my report. In these verses, a great anthem is sung in heaven:
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."Just a few verses earlier in Revelation 5, John had been weeping because no one had been found worthy to open the book held by the one who sits on the throne. But one of the elders who surrounded God's throne tells John to stop weeping because "the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals." At this point, anyone familiar with C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia might expect his character Aslan to make an appearance in Revelation. But instead of a mighty conquering Lion, John sees a "Lamb standing, as if slain" and it this Lamb who is worthy to open the book and its seven seals and to receive power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing, as the heavenly anthem says. The Lion is the slain Lamb.
This will be a central image in the message John is communicating to the seven churches to whom he writes; Christ ironically overcame by being overcome. John invites these churches to see that their calling is the same. They conquer by being defeated. They win the crown of life by being faithful in the face of death.
What does it mean to practice this as the Church today? We seem to be so far removed from those Christians in the first century who risked so much to be faithful to Christ. What would it mean for us to orient our entire lives around the Lamb who has been slain?