Tyler Hartford is Lead Pastor at Pleasant View Mennonite Church, Goshen, Ind. He and his wife Genessa have seven children who keep them quite entertained. Tyler also enjoys travel—even if it involves just sitting in a chair with a book and a cup of coffee. He is a member of the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board and a frequent contributor to Rejoice! Magazine.
“Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals. Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered … ” Revelation 5:5-6 NRSV.
Much of church life is planned out as we create environments for worship, for study, for prayer, for service. And yet I am always struck by our God of surprises, who comes along and blesses us unexpectedly in those moments—“In spite of our best intentions,” as some might say.
This Advent coincides with the closure of our congregation’s “Year of the Bible,” inspired both by a pastoral focus on increasing biblical literacy and by Western District Conference’s “Year of the Bible.” For over a decade, our congregation has encouraged participation in Bible reading programs, but has not offered a sustained focus or sermon series on an overarching reading of the Bible.
We set aside space and time this year to watch, listen and hear the thread of God’s redemption throughout all of Scripture. Our journey has been filled with the fruit from many blessings and challenges presented by this discipline. As a pastor, I was most distressed by leaving aside so many great stories and themes, yet the year’s relentless progression forced us into stories not often addressed and provided a bigger, more panoramic view of Scripture.
Now we find ourselves in the space between the first and second Advent of Christ, and Revelation has become our text. The tyranny of the moment and the push-pull of everyday life has kept us from seeing Christ fully revealed, and John’s Revelation asks us to stop, look and listen. We are realizing whole sections of our lives were unaddressed in the unrelenting march of time. John urges us from across the ages to be still and hear his words. “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.” Revelation 1:3 NRSV.
The “apocalypse” or unveiling of Jesus Christ lends color and vividness to our faith. It asks us to reevaluate our allegiances and clarify our retelling of the Good News. The lamb who conquers by sacrifice and testimony mirrors an all-powerful God coming as a helpless child. Through the lamb, we are reminded of how the Advent themes of hope, peace, joy and love permeate Revelation.
Interspersed among images of profound loss and violence, we experience reminders of a faithful and loving God. In a world filled with darkness and strife, we are captivated by the stunning beauty of a redeeming God. Within a landscape longing for the return of spring, we are taken by the joy of a Servant King and His gift. May we each be surprised by how God works in our seasons of waiting.