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Fragrant Worship

May 1, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
May 1, 2022
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Easter 3
Fragrant Worship

And when he took the book the four living creatures, and the twenty four priests fell on their faces before the Lamb, each having a harp and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints; and they sang a New Song saying, "Worthy are you to hold the book, and to open its seals. For you were slain and by your blood ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and peoples and nation. And you ordained them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:8-10 dkv)

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Today the church learns something of the “Book of Revelation,” something of the resurrected Christ, and something of the exalted Christ.

Today we dive into the deep end of the pool; and so let us begin by learning something about the “Book of Revelation.”

The first thing to remember is that the “Book of Revelation” is not exactly a book. To call it that is to relegate it to the status of literature, and it is most definitely not literature. Why not literature?

Because all literature has its source the mind and the heart and the pen of man. But Revelation has as its source: the mind and heart of God: and the pen of his holy apostles and prophets as its writers. Men who were filled to the full with the Holy Spirit which qualified them to do what they did.

We learn this about St. Paul in today’s first reading, that he was filled with the Holy Spirit at his baptism and that the scales fell off his eyes. Now he was qualified to teach the world that: Jesus is the Son of God and to single-handedly write half of the New Testament Scriptures.

On the other hand the Book of Revelation is indeed revelation! We all know what revelation is. It means to make something known that is presently unknown: like the mind of a teen-ager!

Only God and the teen-ager herself can ever know what is going on inside; and until she decides to REVEAL it, you might just as well go and do something less stressful.

In the four gospels our God reveals the incarnate Christ to us. He who was and who is and who is to come. He who ransomed mankind by his blood from 1) degrading sin, 2) the gaping jaws of death, 3) and the desire of Satan to sift us like wheat and devour us: and there is nothing worse than that!

Yes, in the four gospels we learn all that we need to know, and firmly believe about the incarnate Christ so that we might live now, and live forever with peace and godly confidence.

But in St. John’s Revelation we learn about the exalted Christ. We learn what his life, death and resurrection accomplished for us. How by Perfect Sacrifice he conquered the Ancient Serpent who is a “murderer from the beginning,” so that the church can now sing:

“Though devils all the world should fill,
all eager to devour us.
We tremble not we fear no ill,
they shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still
scowl fierce as he will,
he can harm us none,
he’s judged the deed is done.
One little word can fell him!”

That little word is Jesus, which means Savior!

And so the “book” of Revelation, contrary to the opinions of fundamentalist preachers is NOT a roadmap of the end times – and has nothing to say about Ukraine, Russia, the State of Israel or the world’s monetary system; nary a single word.

But it has everything to say about the Lord’s victory over the combined forces of Evil; and it is for us the ultimate revelation of the final battle, the “Battle of Armageddon” between Good and Evil; in which our God neatly wins the victory: for us men and for our salvation.

But there is yet one more picture of our Lord that we learn from today’s readings: that of the resurrected but not-yet-ascended Christ. The Jesus we see here presents very differently than earlier in the gospel, or in his exalted state.

This Jesus operates more mysteriously. He passes through locked doors on the one hand; but also lights a charcoal fire and prepares a meal of fish and bread for his disciples.

And it is precisely here that we need to penetrate Scripture if we are to understand what goes on in this Lord’s Supper, and how it relates to our 2nd reading today.

The charcoal fire he lights should remind us of the altar in the temple where whole-burnt offerings were offered to God to atone for sin. And atone they did because the LORD himself decreed it to be so.

He gave men a way to be rid of their sins so that they might live with joy, gladness and a light heart all the days of their life, come what may – and moreover live and reign with Christ in eternity.

But there was also another altar in the temple called: the “incense altar.” It is on this altar that incense was burned as an offering to God. One that by its lovely fragrance carried man’s prayers to the very nostrils of God, and covered the stench of human sin.

Of course that altar, powerful as it was to cleanse sin, was only a prophecy and prediction of the cross; which is Perfect Altar; on which the Lamb of God was slain to expiate the sins of the world; and thereby to save us from suffering the consequences rightly due us for our sins.

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!”

That is the altar we encounter in today’s reading from Revelation. Though sinful flesh refuses to believe it incense is burned in heaven – and what we read here in Revelation should not be taken as a symbol or charade because heaven is more “real” than THIS hazy life could ever be.

So real in fact that when the Lamb of God is about to open the Gospel Book – for only HE can open it to us – it is done amidst incense whose particular formula was commanded by the LORD, and could only be used in holy worship.

Now we know that that incense is Christ! Whose sacrifice according to Paul is a “fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5:2) And it is for this reason that the church of both Testaments has always worshiped our Great God and Savior amidst a cloud of Holy aroma.

Not only so that our worship here will be more like heaven’s worship.

But also to rightly prepare us for the aromatic future that awaits us, by engaging in aromatic worship today. Amen.