Blessed Up

18 Jun

Kathryn Hauser’s Reflection for the Ascension of the Lord 2 June 2011

Blessed Up

About a week and a half ago a song popped into my head out of the blue.  Just the refrain kept repeating over and over in my mind and heart:

“Bless-ed be the Name of the Lord!

Bless-ed be the Name of the Lord!

Bless-ed be His ho-l-y Name!”

The song kept repeating so often and with such intensity and exuberance in my soul that I was concerned I’d break out in song while working at the library.  I’m sure the patrons were glad that I refrained from “making a joyful noise” (cf Ps 47:1), because even though heaven may rejoice with gladness, my pitch can hurt the ears like a pitchfork hitting a stone in the dirt.  All week my heart has nonetheless been singing this “new” song (although it is hardly new.)  Then I sat with the scripture lessons for The Ascension of the Lord:

24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures

After sitting with this, the Holy Spirit invited me to look at Revelation 14:1-5 regarding the Lamb and the 144,000 and what I had written about this last August 2010.

Revelation 14

The Lamb and the 144,000

 1Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. 5No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.

~

“In Revelation 14, the Holy Spirit draws our focus back to the individual, personal level of our relationship with God, now that we got a look at the societal level in Revelation 13.  John looks, and there before him is the Lamb standing on Mount Zion [our hearts] and with Him are 144,000.  These people have His name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads [their minds] (Rev 14:1).  Christ meets us at our hearts and we meet Him with our heads and bring our hearts along.  The world has always fixated on the number alone.  I’ve heard people and groups turn it into an elitist concept, as if there will be only 144,000 people getting into heaven.  This number in this passage is not referring to the same 144, 000 from all the tribes of Israel in Revelation Chapter 7, which is about equality and equal distribution: fairness.  The passage from Chapter 14 is where the Holy Spirit is giving encouragement to those who courageously have kept the faith, simply because it takes great courage to live a faith-filled life.  John hears a roar like rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder.  He hears a sound like that of harpists playing their harps (v 2).  Music soars up from the hearts of the faithful.  These people sing a new song before God’s throne and before the four living creatures [Mother Nature] and the elders [time].  No one can learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth (v 3).  They are human beings.  They learned the song through their experiences in life, and were redeemed by their journeys on earth.  They did not defile themselves with women [distractions], for they had kept themselves pure (v 4).  They followed where the Lamb led.  They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb (v 4).  No lie was found in their mouths; they were blameless (v 5). They focused on Christ at all costs because their love surpassed themselves.”

Even though I had written this last August, it hit me afresh this week as my heart was humming “Bless-ed be the Name of the Lord!”  It hit me afresh that it is ok for my notion to fall away that this group of 144,000 is an elitist number, and that in truth these saints were the few who martyred their lives as first fruits to God for the sake of the Gospel.  (Just a thought: Does ‘first fruits’ mean that these saints are ten percent of the 1.4 million who would enjoy heaven in a meaningful way?  Or by posing this question at all, does it reset in motion the elitist trap and put a cap of human limitations on fellowship with God?)  It has been common practice for so long to see this passage from Revelation through the eyes of elitism, that I could almost hear the metal armor of my soul chink as it fell to the ground.  Old attachments die hard.  Logic had told me that there had to be more than 144,000 who died for the sake of the Gospel.  And certainly logic told me that more than 144,000 people were getting into heaven!  Then in one of those happy “Ah ha!” moments, when I know I know something is from God because it’s too smart to have come from me, I realized the 144,000 were the martyred saints in choir leading us living saints in a new song, showing us the way to come home.  Their song of praise to the Lamb was leading and encouraging us toward God’s throne of grace. 

We are not home yet.  Jesus had said,

24:49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Blessing God clothes us with power from on high.  As we bless Him, we withdraw our focus of attention off ourselves and are “carried up into heaven” as we focus on Him.  Heaven is not a destination, per se, but a state of being in communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  As we worship Him, we are filled with joy and continue blessing Him in the temple of our hearts [Zion]. (Luke 24:53, cf Rev 14:1)  “Staying in the city” as far out as Bethany also describes the Church at the End of the Age. 

As Pastor Jerry Cook noted in a recent sermon, Jesus did describe this for us in Luke 21:5-36.  The disciples were talking with Jesus about the beauty of the Temple.  Jesus deflated their notion about it, and had said that not a single stone would be left on another. (Lk 21:6) Then they asked Him a two-fold question: “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” (Lk 21:7)  Jesus gave them a two-fold answer for their two-fold question.  He prefaced both answers with a caution to not be deceived.  Other translations say not to be misled, seduced, led astray, fooled, and, “Watch out for the doomsday deceivers.”  Jesus described the wars, revolutions, uprisings, earthquakes, famines, plagues, fearful sights, and great signs from heaven. (Lk 21:8-11)  Then He said, “But before all this happens…” and described the persecutions and opportunities to bear witness through them. (Luke 21:13)  In Truth, these prophesies have been in the process of being fulfilled and have been unfolding over the last two thousand years.  The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.  The Church did spread out from Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)  So, how have the saints born up their faith and kept up the endurance to do it?  Logic doesn’t work when we know so many martyrs who have been beheaded and yet Jesus had said,

“But not a hair of your head will be lost.  Your endurance will win you your lives.” (Lk 21:19)

What cuts through logic when it fails?  Praising and blessing God.

What cuts through fears of deception?  Praising and blessing God.

What cuts through anguish when we’re “losing our heads” with searing physical pain wracking our bodies?  Praising and blessing God.

What cuts through fear of abandonment when we feel like Jesus ascended and left us to fend for (or feed on?) ourselves?  Praising and blessing God.

What cuts through the frustration of feeling like we’ve inherited Job’s friends, who tried to “fix” him, and Job’s wife, who said, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9)?  Praising and blessing God.

Blessing God shifts the energy and focus back on to Him.  It realigns our hearts and shields them.  It soothes the abuses of logic, fear, and injustices.  It may not actually right a wrong, but it surrenders the power and control back to God, and shifts our souls into right alignment with Him.

In Revelation 21:2 John sees the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.  In Luke 24:49 Jesus said, “And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised.”  Both the Holy Spirit and God’s Kingdom come descending, and they are visible; they can be seen.  We have the opportunity to join the choir of the 144,000 in singing God’s praises and blessing Him.  Come on down, God!  My invitation to you, dear reader, is to join the saints and the Lamb in singing this new song of blessing His holy Name with all of our whole being.

Please consider Hebrews 9:28

“In the same way, Christ was offered up once. He took away the sins of many people. He will also come a second time. At that time he will not suffer for sin. Instead, he will come to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

 

Ascension of the Lord                     2 June 2011              Gospel: Luke 24:44-53

Acts 1:1-11
1:1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning

1:2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.

1:3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

1:4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me;

1:5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”

1:7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.

1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

1:9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

1:10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.

1:11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Psalm 47
47:1 Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy.

47:2 For the LORD, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth.

47:3 He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet.

47:4 He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah

47:5 God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.

47:6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.

47:7 For God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm.

47:8 God is king over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.

47:9 The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted.

Psalm 93
93:1 The LORD is king, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength. He has established the world; it shall never be moved;

93:2 your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.

93:3 The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.

93:4 More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters, more majestic than the waves of the sea, majestic on high is the LORD!

93:5 Your decrees are very sure; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.

Ephesians 1:15-23
1:15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason

1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

1:17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,

1:18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,

1:19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

1:20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.

1:22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,

1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Gospel Lesson: Luke 24:44-53
24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,

24:46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,

24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

24:48 You are witnesses of these things.

24:49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

24:50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.

24:51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.

24:52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;

24:53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.


 

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