Crown Him
Lord of All



by the Rev. Lee Woofenden
Bridgewater, Massachusetts, May 7, 2000

Readings

Exodus 33:18-23 Moses and the glory of the Lord

Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory."

And the Lord said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

Then the Lord said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen."


Revelation 4 The throne in heaven

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this."

At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow resembling an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the sevenfold Spirit of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, as clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes in front and behind. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say, "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."


True Christian Religion #2, 4 Our faith in the Lord

This is the faith of the new heaven and the new church in universal form: The Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world to subdue the hells and to glorify his humanity. Without this no mortal could have been saved, and they are saved who believe in him. . . .

There is a divine trinity, and it is in the Lord God the Savior Jesus Christ just as the soul, the body, and the activity coming from them form a trinity in a human being.


Sermon

"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." (Revelation 4:11)

Every once in a while it is good to get back to basics. For three of the next five Sundays, my sermons will cover the three core teachings of our church. Today's sermon will deal with our beliefs about the Lord, next week's with our beliefs about the Bible, and three weeks later, in our final regular service, we will focus on what it means to be reborn and live a spiritual life. If you would like a more in-depth presentation of these ideas and several other basic teachings of our church, I just happen to have brought with me today two more audio tape sets of the Swedenborg Newcomer's class that we offered here last spring, and you'd be welcome to purchase a set after the service.

Who is God? This question has tantalized, frustrated, and challenged humankind at least as far back as human literature and civilization goes.

For Moses, thirteen hundred years before Christ, and deep in the early pages of the Old Testament, God was a being with whom he sometimes seemed to talk face to face, as he did earlier in the very same chapter of Exodus. Yet God remained a being of mystery, whose nature could not be fathomed, whose face could not be seen. When Moses asked to see God's glory, God allowed him to see only his back, and not his face--for to see God's full glory in the face would have destroyed Moses, frail and limited human being that he was.

And so God remained largely an invisible God--a being who communicated with humans on earth in mysterious and sometimes cryptic ways, and whose true nature was a matter of speculation and wonderment. This was so not only in ancient Judaism, but in all the religions of the world. The nature of God remained the ultimate mystery.

In some ways, this is still true today. No matter how well we may think we understand the nature of God, our finite minds are entirely incapable of grasping the infinity that is God. No matter how much we may learn, understand, and experience of the nature of God, there will always be infinitely more to God than we have yet comprehended. In fact, if it were up to us, the nature of God would always remain an utter mystery. On our own, we would not be capable of discovering the slightest bit of information and insight about a being who inhabits a level of reality that is beyond the stuff our minds are made of.

But it is not up to us. God is a being who wants to have a relationship with us. And God reaches out to reveal to us what he is like. The history of religion is the history of God reaching down into the world of humans and disclosing ever more of the divine nature, as we were ready to comprehend it--and as we needed to comprehend it to avoid spiritual destruction. It is the history of God bending the heavens to come down to us.

In Old Testament times, God did this by filling lawgivers, prophets, and angels with the divine presence and sending them to convey a message to the people. The Old Testament is the written result of those efforts by God to reach out to us and give us a deeper understanding of divine and spiritual reality.

But it was not enough. We still persisted in turning away. We ignored and persecuted the prophets that God sent. They were crackpots, wackos, rabble-rousers, troublemakers. They disturbed our comfortable lives by telling us that we must change, must give up our favorite vices, must devote our lives entirely to the Lord and leave behind anything we love that is not in harmony with divine laws. We don't like to change. And we wouldn't listen.

Finally, just as we were about to entirely cut off our hearts, minds and lives from God by focusing entirely on material things and our own power and prestige, God reached out to us in the ultimate way. Lawgivers, priests, and prophets had been temporary, stopgap measures. Now, to prevent us from spiritually suffocating ourselves in our worldly delusions, God himself came and lived among us. God took on a human nature, a human body, a human mind, and grew up among us, facing all the triumphs and tragedies, the joys and struggles of human existence. God personally faced all the powers of materialism, greed, selfishness, and lust for power--in a word, all the powers of evil. And at every point where we had failed and given in, he triumphed and overcame.

This was the life and mission of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was not on some errand to satisfy the supposed wrath or appease the arbitrary "justice" of an angry and impatient Father God. Rather, Jesus Christ was God himself come out of pure love to reach out to us, engage in personal battle against our spiritual enemies, conquer all the powers of evil, and take to himself the eternal power to overcome in each one of us the destructive forces and evil tendencies that would otherwise inevitably tear us down and destroy us.

Of course, we still have to do our part in cooperation with the Lord--but that is the subject for the third sermon in this series! For now, it is enough to know that whatever personal trials we may face, the Lord Jesus Christ has already faced the very same trials at a far deeper level than we ever will, and has already overcome. It is enough to know that the more we turn to the Lord, the more the Lord can come into our lives with the love, goodness, wisdom, and power to give us the victory in our personal struggles.

Through the same process by which the Lord fought these battles for us and emerged victorious, he also fully united his human side and his divine side. You see, Jesus was born not only as the Son of God, but as the son of Mary. He had a divine father, but a human mother. This meant that from conception and birth, he was a mixture of the merely human and the infinitely divine. His limited, human heredity formed a stage on which the evil powers of hell could approach the God of creation without being burnt to a cinder, as Moses would have been if he had looked directly upon the face of the Lord.

Yet the infinite divine power from above continually pressed into and through the limited, finite parts that he had received from his mother. Every time he was victorious in one of his struggles with "the devil" (which is one of the Bible's ways of personifying evil), a little bit of the limited, finite part of himself was put off, and replaced with a little more of the infinite. And when he faced and overcame his greatest battle, which took place at the crucifixion, he finally put off everything that was human in a limited and finite way, and made his entire human side fully divine.

In the Gospels, we see Jesus going back and forth between his limited, human side, when he felt a separation from God the Father and addressed the Father as if he were a separate being, and his infinite, divine side, when he experienced the Father as his own inner soul, so that he could say, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). The times where the Gospels report Jesus' times of apparent separation from God the Father have caused a lot of confusion in the Christian Church. Is Jesus the same person as God, or a separate person? And what about the Holy Spirit? From this confusion has come the contradictory and unbiblical notion in traditional Christianity that there is one God in three Persons.

Fortunately, we have the Book of Revelation to show us Jesus Christ as he is after the crucifixion and resurrection, when he has become fully one with God the Father. The first chapter of Revelation presents a glorious vision of the Lord God Jesus Christ as the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. There is no separation here, but one eternal divine being who is at once Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, just as we human beings have soul, body, and actions, but are one person.

In the Revelation chapter four, we find Jesus Christ as the eternal God, seated on the metaphorical throne of heaven, receiving the praise of the four symbolic creatures and the twenty four elders, who lay their crowns before him, saying, "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." And later, in chapter eleven, the twenty-four elders praise him in these words: "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign" (Revelation 11:17).

This is the God whom we worship. This is the God whom we crown as Lord of all. This is the Lord God Jesus Christ, who is at the same time our eternal creator and our personal friend and Savior. This is the God whom we can never fully comprehend because his infinity goes far beyond our finite ability to grasp. And yet he is the same God who has come personally to be with us and share our joys and sorrows, our struggles and our triumphs.

There is no need for confusion about whether God is three beings or one being, for God is just as one as we are, and yet with as many different aspects to his being and character as we have in ours--no, infinitely more aspects and characteristics than we have. And because Jesus Christ is also our Creator, we can know that our God shares with us every least thought and feeling that we may have, because every detail of the person we are comes from God--even though we have turned some parts of ourselves away from God.

As our traditional statement of faith says, "We worship the one God, the Lord, the savior Jesus Christ, the redeemer of the world; in whom is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; whose humanity is divine; who for our salvation did come into the world and take our nature upon him." This is the God whom we crown as Lord of all. Amen.

 

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Music: Heart and Soul
1999 Bruce DeBoer