RIDER ON THE WHITE HORSE
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[As the congregation sang "I Will Call Upon the Lord," children were asked to come up to the stage to "help out" with the sermon.]
Q & A with children ...
- Name a hero.
- Why is ________ a hero?
["I Will Call Upon the Lord" was again sung while the children walked to Childrens Worship.]
Heroes arent just for kids. We may not want to admit it, but we need heroes too. We need heroic stories. Why?
Maybe its because heroes protect us and save us from evil. They slay dragons. They defeat the evildoers.
Maybe its because heroes remind us of what really matters. They are noble. They do the right thing even when it is difficult.
Maybe its because heroes make us believe that good does win out over evil; because if evil wins, then none of us win. But when the hero wins we are all saved.
Maybe we need heroic stories because they draw us closer to God. Yes, they do. God is good. God is love. And God is heroic. Our God is on a mission to overcome sin and evil and restore his creation. All of the people we consider heroes of the Bible arent the main heroes -- God is!
When we come together in worship we remember and celebrate a heroic story the gospel. It is the story of Gods son. He came to save us and he came to show us the way to the Father. But the enemy the Dragon was threatened by the son of God and he and his beastly followers killed the hero. Not because they were more powerful, but because our hero, the son of God, allowed it. He died for us.
And sometimes we end the story there: a noble sacrifice. And so we come every Sunday to a memorial for a fallen hero. But the noble and loving sacrifice of Jesus is only half the story. It is an important half, but it is only half. Sometimes when we gather around the table we assume that the focus is on death. Death is there, but thats not all thats there. Sometimes when we are baptized we think that it is all about death. Death is there, but thats not all thats there. The gospel is good news. Its a heroic story. Death is swallowed up in victory. Death is taken captive and made to serve the hero, not the enemy.
Christ is not a fallen hero. He is Lord of Lord and King of Kings. And the fact that he still lives and rules with power makes a huge difference for all of us. You see, the story isnt over yet. You and I are living in it and we are waiting for the final act when the hero who sacrificed himself nobly returns. You get a taste of his heroic return in Revelation 19. [Read Revelation 19:11f]
The beast will be taken down. The dragon will be defeated. The hero will come riding in on his white horse. And while we meditate on this image of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, heres some heroic thoughts for us ...
- Heroes are often known for their weapons. It often tells you what sort of hero they are. Luke Skywalker wields a lightsaber. Thor carries a hammer. Indiana Jones has a whip. King Arthur has Excalibur. But thats just fantasy. Well, Jonas Salk had a vaccine. Thomas Jefferson had a declaration. Abraham Lincoln had a proclamation. Martin Luther King had a dream. They had their weapons, too. The Rider on the White Horse doesnt have a gun, or a bomb, not even a sword well not one like most knights. His sword is his word. With his words and with the truth he defeats the enemies of God. Violence isnt going to win this war. Superior firepower isnt going to give us any advantage in the real struggles of the world. What will make a difference is the truth. Faithfulness and Truth won the battle of the cross. It will win the war also.
- Words can be weapons of mass destruction. They can create pain and suffering. They can be quite violent. But words of truth spoken in love are words that only the enemy should fear. The words of Christ convict and save.
- We do not fight with our own words rather we trust in the power of the words of Christ. He is faithful and true. He has won the battle with his own right arm. The help of his faithful followers is not needed to win the war. Like a true hero, he saves the day all by himself!
- The world seems to be at the mercy of the Dragon and the Beast every day. Theres a lot of tension in the world. Whenever Israel goes to war theres always a bit of concern. The fact that the Jews are going to war in the Holy Land seems to magnify the conflict beyond politics and culture and make it religious and spiritual at the same time. It seems very modern but also very biblical for some reason. The war in the Holy Land is spiritual. Heaven is paying attention to that war. Its bad. But its just as bad as the injustices and evil embodied in wars and conflicts in other, less biblical locations: God view of the world is not limited to the Middle East. He sees the atrocities in Sudan and the conflicts in Indonesia. Even the smaller injustices and fighting that dont make it on the news. Turmoil in Central America, or open fighting on the streets of our cities.
- All of these stir God to action. His wrath against evil is building up and the Rider on the White Horse is the one who treads the winepress of Gods wrath. As far back as Isaiah, the winepress is a symbol of Gods vengeance against evil. God is patient and merciful, but his justice demands that he do something about the evil and sin that hurts people.
- Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow so great is their wickedness!" (Joel 3:13)To understand why God waits, the prophets used the image of the winepress. When the grapes are ripe, they are harvested and crushed. It is not an outburst of anger, but a final solution to evil and injustice.
- Our hero is the one who executes Gods final judgment. He alone treads the winepress of Gods wrath. How often do you have the same feeling that the prophet expressed? The vats of the winepress are overflowing as the wickedness of humanity heaps up. How long until the Lord makes the enemy drink the fermented wine of wickedness?
- This calls for endurance on the part of the saints, but be assured that the day of the Lord is coming. There will be a great banquet on that day. A feast! Are you ready for the banquet? Have you responded to the heros invitation to his wedding supper?
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 16 July 2006
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