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Revelation 1:4-8

It wasn’t that long ago that we read from Revelation 1. Christ the King Sunday of year B, actually! Just before we began Advent we recognized the Kingship of Christ by reading these same verses… kind of. There is one slight difference between our reading these verses for Christ the King and the second Sunday of Eastertide. It’s a subtle difference, but I believe it bears noting.

For Christ the King Sunday we read Revelation 1:4b-8. For the second Sunday of Easter we read Revelation 1:4-8. That little “b” makes a difference. It may not seem like it really matters, but the purposes of this essay it does.

The omitted line for Christ the King Sunday is brief; “John to the seven churches that are in Asia.” That’s it. You may have read that line for Christ the King Sunday anyway, but the lectionary omits it then. It helps it now.

You see, the inclusion of this brief qualifier shifts the emphasis of the reading. On Christ the King Sunday we read Revelation 1 in order to emphasize, not surprisingly, Christ’s Kingship. It’s about Christ. It’s about his authority.

This week we do recognize the Kingship of Christ. He has been resurrected after all… But this week we recognize that the Kingship of Christ is in relationship to the church! As you are surely well aware, the letters to the seven churches weren’t merely directed at those congregations, but are directed at the entirety of the church. The number 7 carries theological weight for John. The letters to these congregations may have been dealing with specific circumstances, but are intended to be read by the entirety of the church, the fullness of the People of God.

This week we read about the Kingship of Christ as it relates to the Church.

A good friend of mine, JP VanDalsem put it well when he inquired if Easter has become a form of “Black Friday” for the Church? Have we turned Easter into an over-marketed, consumer-driven, day that exists for people who don’t usually walk through our doors?

In the last 10 years, Black Friday has taken on a life of it’s own. Just a few years ago my wife and I ventured out “just for fun.” We planned to purchase nothing. Seriously. We hadn’t looked at any ads, didn’t know any of the deals, and were bored so we thought, “Why not… Nothing better to do.”

If it were still Lent, I’d probably tell you this next part as a confession.

At the end of the day we came home with two new phones, an iPad, a new TV, an assortment of clothes, and a few extra calories we could have done without. It was quite the experience! We marveled at the crowds and the experiences.

This was one day of the year we did something we don’t normally do. This was one day of the year we broke our normal routine, braved the crowds, and gave in to the flashing lights and waving banners telling us what we needed.

How do we treat Easter? How often has Easter become a type of bait and switch for people who don’t normally join us for worship? How often do we build the hype and wave the banners so that people who otherwise wouldn’t venture into our corridors finally do. And once they’re in, how often do we try to curate an experience that will keep them coming back? Is Easter about seeing how many people will join our church for worship? Is Easter targeted at those who don’t usually worship?

Now, hear me, it is good and it is right that we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ! This is a big deal and making a party out of it is perfectly appropriate.

I am simply struck by John’s assertion that his letters are given to the church! This Eastertide we celebrate what Christ has done in and through the church. If Christ is a King he has a Kingdom and, according to John, we are that Kingdom! By his resurrection, Christ is the firstborn of the dead, Christ is the ruler of the kings of the earth. By his Resurrection, we, the Church, have been made citizens of that Kingdom.

Preacher, on this second Sunday of Easter, I don’t really have a strong exegesis of Revelation. Instead I hope to emphasize that, as good and as exciting as they may be, the crowds and the fanfare of Easter might be more of a by-product of our consumer driven culture than the values of the Kingdom. The longer I hold the office of pastor, the more I’m convinced that Easter and Eastertide are celebrations for the Church!

Rather than advocating transactional atonement, we read about a King who lives and loves in relationship with his citizens. Easter is a celebration for the Church. The atonement offered by Jesus, according to the Revelator, begins with love, sacrificial love, which grants us, the Church, citizenship in his Kingdom! Unlike Black Friday; it’s not about creating an experience that will guarantee a transaction.

This is Good News!

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