Scripture: Rev. 5:11-6:11
Key verse: (5:12) Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!
Reflection: Today’s lectionary reading from the Revelation of John offers two very different scenes. The first is the myriad saints of heaven worshipping the glorified Christ in the heavenly realm. What a beautiful image to invoke on the eve of All Saint’s Day when we remember all those who have gone before us in faith who now live eternally with God. This vision offered by John has inspired the church throughout our history. Perhaps the most famous inspiration born of this passage is “Worthy is the Lamb,” from Handel’s, “Messiah.” You can listen to it here. Not a bad way to start your day.
The scene shifts abruptly to the glorified Christ opening five of seven seals. The opening of the first four seals releases the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse upon the earth. First comes a white horse, perhaps symbolizing Christ and the spread of the gospel. The white horse is followed by the red horse, likely symbolizing war; then comes the black horse, symbolizing famine, or economic ruin, followed by the pale green horse, symbolizing death. This is far removed from the beauty of the heavenly vision immediately preceding it. Yet it is a poignant description of the way of the world, then and now.
With the opening of the fifth seal, the saints and martyrs in heaven call out, “How long, O Lord?” In the midst of so much suffering in our world, do we not join their voices wondering, “How long?” Whether it’s loved ones battling cancer, or freedom fighters battling despots in our world, how long will war and famine and disease and death define creation? That is the question of the saints then and now.
I’ll confess I don’t like the Lamb’s answer. “A little longer,” says the voice. A little longer … until “the number will be complete.” Which is to say, until we are all included in this radical transformation of the world. Ultimately that’s the story of the Revelation — the transformation of the world into the kingdom of God. It is a painful transformation, as the four horsemen reveal, but Death, that final horseman, is not the final word. The final word is life and joy and peace. You can read it in Revelation 21. God’s going to win. That’s the end of the story. And that is the hope of all the saints through the ages.
Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Amen.”
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].