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March 26, 2019 | David A. Dein
When I was a little kid sitting in Church was tough. I wanted to move, move, move, so it was not uncommon to walk into the sanctuary late for service and see 8-year-old me offering my clothing custodial services by sliding along the floor and collecting dust as my poor mother tried to pay attention to what Pastor Bob was preaching about. On those rare moments I was sitting still, I was doing one of two things, using a pencil to scratch out the words in the bulletin to make it funny (i.e. Blessed Assurance was changed to Blessed Insurance, or Fanny Crosby would just become Fanny – I was 8), or leafing through that red hymnal in front of me, looking for the weird songs in the back. (I was the kid who on hymn sing nights would request My Country Tis’ Of Thee – come on, it was in there).
But there was a section in the hymnal that always perplexed me, it was a bunch of light and bold texted paragraphs made up of scripture and themed for special services. I really liked these because it was a cheap excuse to allow me to scream bible verses with everyone else, it was just too bad we really only these passages at Easter and Christmas. BOOOO!!! Little did I know liturgical churches all over the world use these passages every Sunday (they’re probably thankful because I would have made for one distracting Lutheran).
I bring this up because that is the spirit being evoked in the new Chris Tomlin song “Is He Worthy?” This song was written by Andrew Peterson and is mostly derived from a beautiful passage in Revelation Chapter 5, where John the Revelator has a vision of God. In it, God has placed a scroll with seven seals in front of all those gathered around and no one can open it and this makes John weep uncontrollably.
Then Jesus shows up (Revelation describes him as looking like a slaughtered lamb, which just sets my 8-year-old imagination a flutter), and He is worthy to open the scroll and throughout the rest of the Chapter, all of the heavens goes nuts with exuberant joy. This scroll contains God’s plans for the future and Jesus’ death and resurrection makes it all possible. This moment is the turning point for all of humanity and it was all because Jesus is worthy. The rest of Revelation 5 is a beautiful hymn followed up by a call and response passage that evokes the tradition that is celebrated in those old red hymnals of today.
It took almost 32 years and Chris Tomlin's song to remind me that when we do responsive readings in church or we sing worship songs along with the radio, we are taking part in a tradition that stretches all the way back to the earliest moments in our faith. We are celebrating and giving ourselves a glimpse into what Heaven will be like.
So when you hear Chris Tomlin’s Is He Worthy remember this, that Jesus through his death on the Cross has invited you into the throne room of Heaven, and that should bring you joy, and hope, even if you're still an 8- year old at heart, like me.
BTW: If you decide to dig deep into Revelation 5 and find yourself scratching your head. I found this video featuring Dr. Hitchcock of Dallas Theological Seminary a pretty good resource for helping it make sense.