Saturday, March 12, 2011

I am Alpha and Omega 3/13/11

Alpha and Omega
RUMC I am #1

I am going to start this Lenten series with a question that even Jesus asked the disciples. “Who do you say that Jesus is?”>>>>>>>>>>>>
Over the last 2000 years Jesus has been called all kinds of things ranging from Son to God to psychotic  —from messiah to magician—from martyr to myth.  The truth is that Jesus is more than words can say.  Those of us who preach Christ spend hours each week trying to come up with the right words to convey the nature and character of Christ. Some of the best descriptions of Jesus, however, come from his own mouth.  This Lent we are going to look at the “I AM” sayings of Jesus.  Many of those come from the Gospel of John.  I want to start, however, with one from the Book of revelation.  Jesus says, “I am alpha and omega.”

To hear Jesus say “I am the Alpha and omega” only makes sense if you know that Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last.   He is saying that he is “A and Z.” First and the last.  He was before anything in creation.  He was before time.  He was, along with God before anything else was.
This reminds us of the first chapter of the gospel of John.  1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.   But Jesus is talking about more than mere time here.  

Let’s look at the context
The book of Revelation was written by the disciple John, about 60 years following the death and resurrection of Christ. Because of his preaching he had been banished to the Isle of Patmos, a penal colony situated in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and the Isle of Crete. On the map you see where the Isle of Patmos is actually located and
Here is a picture of Patmos today. It looks fairly pleasant. It is a small island ten miles long and five miles wide.  John was banished there because he refused to worship the Emperor.  John’s banishment would have included scourging, chains, insufficient clothing, little food, sleeping on the bare ground of a dark prison and work under the lash of the military overseer.” Pretty rugged conditions for a man probably in his nineties, no matter how pretty the view.
And it was here that John tells us he had a vision, a vision of someone he hadn’t seen for sixty years, his friend Jesus. Jesus appeared to him in his glorified state and revealed to John the ultimate destiny of humanity.
It is important for us to recognize that Revelation is the most abused book of the Bible.  It has too often been used as a map for the future.  Revelation is not a map for tomorrow’s news.  It is a poetic promise about the nature of God and God’s relationship to people.  It is filled with poetic images of fantastic monsters and terrifying plagues,
·        None of which are intended to be taken literally. 
·        None of which are intended to be identified with specific people or newspaper stories. 
·        Many of which cannot be understood apart from the Old Testament context and most importantly
·        None of which is outside of God’s sovereignty- which is the theological word for God’s reign.
That is the whole point.  None of this - no matter how bad it seems. NONE of this is outside of God’s authority.   The message is not that God is in control of all that is, the message is that all of creation, all of history, all that is . . .  is moving slowly and unchangeably back toward its source, back toward God.  Everything that is, comes from God.  Everything that is will ultimately end in God.  I encourage you to read it again in this light.

 It is in the closing chapters of this Poetic Revelation that Jesus says “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

What does that mean for us today?
First, we have to recognize that when Jesus says I am the Alpha and the Omega Jesus is clearly claiming to be God.   Remember I said that you have to recognize the Old Testament references in Revelation in order to understand its meaning? 
When Jesus says I am the alpha and Omega, it is a direct reference to Isaiah 44:6 “ 6 “This is what the LORD says—    Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last;  apart from me there is no God.” I don’t believe it was a mistake that Jesus used almost identical words when he said I am the Alpha and I am the Omega.
How many firsts can there be- one- if God is the Alpha, the first and Jesus is the Alpha, the first; then they have to be one and the same.  The same is true for lasts. 
You may say “HO HUM, yea, Jesus is God.  I’ve heard that before.”  I’m sure you have, but have you really heard it.   Too many people today and in history are theologically lazy.  On a list of the church’s biggest heresies, or theological errors, I count that 75% involved errors in describing the relationship between God and Jesus.  You might start on one end with adoptionism and Arianism that claimed Jesus was only human;  through Nestorianism who claimed that Jesus was two persons one human (Jesus) and the other divine (Christ), to Docetism that  claimed Jesus was divine and his humanity was only an illusion.
It is hard work to grasp that Jesus is God, God is Jesus.  It is hard work to wrap ourselves around the trinity: one in three, three in one.  But we have to do our best to resist anything else.
For descriptive purposes, in order to wrap our little pea brains around the incarnation we talk about God the father and Jesus Christ the son.  But there is no border.  There is no distinction; there is no separation between God and Jesus. 
The Nicene Creed written in 325 AD is one of the great statements of the unity of the Godhead.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen. 
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made
Jesus says “The father is in me and I am in him.”  The two are one; there is no distinction, no separation, no differentiation.  Jesus is Divine- God came in flesh.
The first lesson then is that Jesus is himself God.  

The second important affirmation here is about us. When we confess Jesus as the Alpha and Omega, we are saying that we find our source in God.  Before we were born, we were in God.  Before we were conceived God was in us.  God is the source of life, the source of love, the source of gifts, the source of all that we are and all we have ever been. 
Without God we are a puppet without a hand.  Without God we are balloons without air.  Without God we are less than the black emptiness of space, because even that was created by God.

The third important affirmation is that in Jesus all creation will find completion.
Do you ever wonder where life is leading you?  Do you ever think about how this all makes sense?  Do you ever wonder how baby’s first steps and massive earthquakes got into the same world?  Do you ever wonder why children die of cancer and some older people seem to linger in suffering?  I know you have wondered why bad things happen to good people, and vice versa.  Do you ever wonder how death, and sickness, and war, and famine, and crime and violence fit into the plan of a loving and just God’s?  Sure you have.  I think we all have.
You won’t find the answer in the Book of Revelation.  You will however find a clear and resounding but “in the end God wins.” 
The goal of life- the Omega of life is not what we do, but that we do it in Christ.
The goal of life- the Omega of life is not what we know but that we know Christ
The goal of life- the Omega of life is not what we accomplish, but that we participate in what Christ accomplished.
The goal of life- the Omega of life is not how many friends we have, but the depth and of our relationship with Jesus.
We can all grasp that what we have comes from God.  ALPHA. It is harder to grasp that the life we live, is also for God.  OMEGA
Roger Simms was hitchhiking home when he was picked up by Mr. Hanover. As they drove towards Chicago, Roger felt God urging him to share his faith. When he overcame his fear and asked the man if he would like to receive Christ, Mr. Hanover stopped, bowed his head on the steering wheel, began to cry, and accepted Christ. "This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me," he said.
Shortly afterwards he dropped Roger at his house and went on to Chicago, which was about an hour down the road. Years later, while preparing for a business trip to Chicago, Roger came across the gold-embossed business card Mr. Hanover had given him years earlier. When he arrived in Chicago he decided to look up Hanover Enterprises and found it located in a skyscraper down town. When he asked the receptionist if he could see Mr. Hanover, she said, "No, but his wife is here." "You knew my husband?" the woman in her 50s asked. Roger explained that her husband had given him a ride and how he'd led him to Christ. "When was that?" she asked. "May 7th, five years ago, the day I was discharged from the army." She began to sob uncontrollably. After several minutes she regained control and said, "I prayed for my husband's salvation for years, believing God would save him. But right after he let you out of his car, on May 7th, he was killed in a head-on collision.”
She continued “I stopped living for God that day.  I thought God had failed me.  Now I see that God always comes through in the end.
Mrs. Hannover gave her back to God that day.  Forever
In the end, God wins.  He is the Alpha and the Omega.


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