BEING BOTH HERE AND THERE
Text: Revelation 1:1-11
Theme: We are transported by the power of the Holy Spirit beyond our self-built prisons—we can be on Patmos and also in the Kingdom of God at the same time.:
It’s hard to be two places at the same time—-we would probably agree that it is impossible!! Sometimes we are here and sometimes we are there. If you are sitting in church this morning you can’t be at the golf-course? Right, Gary?? If you have something pressing to attend to elsewhere, you must leave here and go there. When you do go there, what was once “there” becomes“here.” for you. Everybody knows that you can’t be in two places at the same time.
We can fantasize about what it would be like if we could. For example, I often dreamed that I could be in my dorm room sleeping while also sitting in my 8 a.m. class at college. While I tried to master the art of sleeping in class with my eyes open, I must admit that it didn’t work well for me! I think everyone here would agree that it would be nice to be at work and also lounging on the beach at Malibu. Not going to happen!
But according to the scripture that was read this morning that was what was happening to John, the writer of Revelation—-he was in two places at the same time.
John wrote that he was on the island of Patmos. That is a tiny island in the Aegean Sea. It’s a beautiful little place now, it is said, but in the time that John lived it was a Roman prison colony. It was similar to the place we call Alcatraz. When you went to Patmos during John’s time you only needed a one-way ticket—-you hardly ever came back from Patmos!! AND THAT WAS WHERE JOHN WROTE FROM—-AND YET HE IS NOT ONLY WAS THERE, HE WAS ALSO IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. As he wrote: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. And he wrote of God’s throne and a vision of Jesus’s “on the clouds” and of the coming completion of God’ Kingdom as he was “caught up” and transported to another place. HE WAS AT TWO PLACES AT THE SAME TIME.
Although John is in a difficult place on Patmos and probably awaiting a sad fate—he was also in a blessed place in his life—in the Kingdom of God.
Let’s paraphrase his experience as Eugene Peterson does in The Message Bible. : “I, John, am writing this to the seven churches in Asia province: All the best to you from the God Who Is, The God Who Was, and The God About to Arrive, and from the Seven Spirits assembled before his throne, and from Jesus Christ—Loyal Witness, Firstborn from the dead, Ruler of all earthly kings.
“Glory and strength to Christ, who loves us, whose blood washed our sins from our lives, who made us a Kingdom, Priests for his Father, forever—-and yes, he’s on his way! Riding the clouds, he’ll be seen by every eye. Those who mocked and killed hm will see him. People from all nations and all times will tear their clothes in lament. Oh, Yes.
“The Master declares, “I am the Alpha and the Omega (the A to Z). I am the God Who Is, The God Who Was, and the God About to Arrive. ….”
I would suggest to you this morning that Patmos is not only a place, a geographical location, but a frame of mind—and that we can be transported by the power of God’s Spirit beyond our own self-built prisons.
We all can be on our Patmos islands because Patmos is wherever and whenever you find yourself trapped, in jail, imprisoned by your actions and your life. There are probably people here this morning who are not just in this church sanctuary on this April Sunday, but who also feel they are trapped on the island of Patmos. Somehow life has given you a one-way ticket and you feel as though you are trapped in prison of yours or someone else’s making—-but nevertheless “trapped.”
The reasons for you to be on Patmos are as many and as unique as each of us are unique and individual human beings. You may be there because of bad decisions that you made. Or you may be there because of bad decisions others made that have affected you.
You may be imprisoned by a disease that is slowly taking your energy and your life eventually. You may be imprisoned by habits that dominate and ruin your life and that you have not been able to overcome. You may feel life has “done you dirty” and that you shouldn’t be there—-but all of us spend some time on our “islands of Patmos”.
The great psychotherapist, Victor Frankl, writes of his Patmos in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in W.W. II Germany and sent to the a Nazi prison camp. It was a horrible prison camp and most of his fellow prisoners soon died under the terrible conditions, the brutality, the starvation and the resulting hopelessness. But Frankl survived. How? He describes how he survived by recounting that on his way out to the work site every morning, he would be composing a book, all in his mind. He would go over the book, chapter by chapter. He would form each page in his brain, imagining in great detail the grand book that he was going to write once he got out of the Nazi prison. And that kept him going. IN HIS BODY, HE WAS A SLAVE IN A HORRIBLE PRISON CAMP—-HIS PATMOS—-BUT IN HIS SOUL HE WAS FREE. HE WAS IN TWO PLACES AT THE SAME TIME.
John, on the island of Patmos, was in the same circumstances as Frankl. He had been imprisoned by the Emperor. There he sits languishing and forlorn on the Island of Patmos, right? WRONG—- THAT IS NOT WHAT JOHN SAYS ABOUT HIMSELF—-he wrote that he “was in the spirit on the Lord’s day.” John was in jail, in exile, far from home and far from his loved ones, but he manages to be in the spirit on the Lord’s day. In other words, he was in a place quite different and a long way from the island of Patmos. He was with God through the Holy Spirit on the Lord’s Day. HE WAS IN TWO DIFFERENT PLACES AT THE SAME TIME—AND SO CAN YOU BE. YOU CAN ALWAYS BE WITH GOD, NO MATTER WHAT YOUR PHYSICAL CIRCUMSTANCES!!
And John was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day”. Not just any day, but the Lord’s Day. That means Sunday. That is the day that we gather as Christians to worship God. And why do we have a Lord’s Day? To allow the Spirit to take charge of our day. That is one of the funct ions of Sunday morning worship. But any day can be the Lord’s Day when we are caught up in the Spirit and are lifted out of our present circumstances and see and experience a glimpse of a new heaven and new earth and a relationship with God in his Kingdom. You see we don’t have to wait, John tells us, we don’t have to wait until we die to be in the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God is here with us. We are in it now! We just have to recognize it as we are in the Spirit. Heaven is not something you have to die for to achieve—it is available now as you trust in God’s and His love for you. This is the main theme of the gospel of Matthew.
Jesus began his public ministry with the announcement of the coming of God’s kingdom. Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, “Repent! The kingdom of God is near” (Matt. 4;17). A few lines later Matthew says that Jesus wnt all around Galilee “proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.” (Matt. 4:23)
Repent! (Greek metanoia) _________________. The idea of repentance is a turning around and going in a different direction. But to turn from what? Again Jesus’ message is very prophetic—-to turn from self-centeredness and self-reliance to concern for others and trust in God. The biblical theme of absolute faith and trust and total reliance on God always means turning from self to God.
Thus, the reign of God begins when we let God begin to reign in our hearts. And so the kingdom of heaven is near. The reign of God is always close at hand. It is as near as our willingness to recognize our inability to “go it on our own” and save ourselves from the prisons we are in and surrender to God. The Kingdom of God is as close as our readiness to look to God rather than to ourselves for happiness. We enter into it as soon as we stop being closed in on ourselves and start a personal relationship with God through Christ. THIS IS THE GOOD NEWS THAT JESUS CAME TO PROCLAIM—-THE GOSPEL.
This is the Gospel!!! This is why the message that Jesus Christ brings to us through the Gospels is called “The Good News!” “Gospel” means “Good News” in tahe Greek—-euangellion ( _____________________). WHY IS IT GOOD NEWS?
- 1. It’s “Good News” first, because it proclaims that God is with us. When we lose ourselves we find God. The Gospel of Matthew applies the name “Emmanuel” to it in Matt. 1:23. “God with us.” Jesus taught that God is with each and every one of us. All we need to do is “repent” that is turn to him and enter into relationship with God.
- 2. The Good News of the Kingdom of God is good, secondly, because it proclaims that God loves us. He loves us unconditionally with an infinite love that we could never earn on our own.
- 3. Thirdly, the Good News of the Kingdom of God is good because it means that God’s power is with us.
WHEN JESUS ANNOUNCES THE GOOD NEWS THAT GOD’S KINGDOM IS NEAR, HE IS SAYING THAT, EXCEPT FOR OUR LACK OF REPENTANCE, THE KINGDOM IS HERE.
THIS GOSPEL IS A SECRET THAT MANY CHURCH MEMBERS HAVE NOT YET DISCOVERED—–AND THAT IS THAT GOD LOVES YOU AND GIVES YOU ETERNAL LIFE THROUGH HIS GRACE—-AND GOD’S GRACE ALONE! AND HE GIVES IT TO YOU AS SOON AS YOU TURN TOWARD GOD AND ACCEPT IT. We can’t earn it. It is freely given. IF YOU REMEMBER NOTHING ELSE FROM THIS SERMON, REMEMBER WHAT I JUST SAID—-THAT GOD LOVES YOU AND GIVES YOU ETERNAL LIFE THROUGH HIS GRACE RIGHT NOW!
We have taken God’s freely given grace to us and told people that they must do this, they must do that, they must say the right words, they must be baptized in a certain way in order to become a part of God’s Kingdom. To do this is to deny God’s Grace freely given. As the gospel of John says—God so loved the world that he gave his Son, that whoever believes in him may not perish but live forever. God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world but that through him the world might be saved. And Jesus proclaimed the Good News of God’s Kingdom—- You see, do not become a member of the community of faith in order to be saved, but because we ARE ALREADY SAVED. To say anything less is to deny God’s grace!! All we have to do is turn is turn toward God and recognize God’s love for us as Jesus revealed it by his life and death and resurrection.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NOT THE CHURCH, THOUGH! THE CHURCH IS MADE UP OF THOSE WHO HAVE RECEIVED GOD’S REIGN IN THEIR LIVES AND SENT AS DISCIPLES ON A MISSION. AND THAT MISSION IS THE SAME ONE THAT JESUS SENT HIS DISCIPLES ON—-TO PROCLAIM THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND TO HEAL THE SICK, SHOW MERCY TO THE DOWNTRODDEN.
It is therefore not the mission of the church to work for our own or anyone else’s salvation. The good news that comes to us through God’s Word is that we ARE SAVED. We know that we are saved….
We know that we are loved by God….
We know that we are free…..
We know that our life has meaning because of the above
Therefore, it is the mission of the church to be the body of Christ that continues to spread the “good news” of the gospel to a world in which most people are imprisoned on their own islands of Patmos. WE DO NOT HAVE TO STAY ON PATMOS—-WE DON’T HAVE TO STAY AT OUR “PITY PARTY”—-GOD INVITES US TO A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM THAT WILL PUT OUR ISLAND OF PATMOS IN A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
It is our mission to tell the world and those who find themselves marooned, imprisoned on some Patmos—-that Jesus has shown us by his life, death and resurrection how to be in two places at the same time. We can be here, with all our troubles, pain and difficulties, but we can also be in a different place—-a place where God is in relationship with us—a relationship described in the closing chapters of Revelation in these words:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples ¸and God himself will be with them He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more for thos things have passed away. And the one who was seated on the throne said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.” (Revelation 21:3-6)
There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God;
A place where sin cannot molest, near to the heart of God
There is a place of comfort sweet, near to the heart of God;
A place where we our Savior meet, near to the heart of God.
There is a place of full release, near to the heart of God;
A place where all is joy and peace, near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer, sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before you, near to the heart of God.
Let’s turn to p. 581 of our hymnals and sing those words in closing. If you have not turned and accepted God’s love for you, may you do so as we sing these words……