You must not do that! the angel said to John, who was lying at the feet of the one who had showed and told him “what must soon take place” (v.6).
“Worship God!” That seems so obvious, but it is anything but.
In his explanation to the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me”, Luther says “We are to fear, love, and trust God above all things.”
What am I afraid of? Whom do I fear? How often in a day am I motivated by anxiety? Moses had reason to be anxious as he led the people into a promised future that seemed anything but secure. In Exodus 33:12-17, he argues with the LORD, “show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight…. If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here…”
“What is it to have a god? What is God?”, Luther asked in the Large Catechism explanation of the first commandment. Answer: “A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God…. Many a person thinks he has God and everything he needs when he has money and property… It is the most common idol on earth. He who has money and property feels secure, happy, fearless, as if he were sitting in the midst of paradise…So too, if anyone boasts of great learning, wisdom, power, prestige, family, and honor, and trusts in them, he also has a god, but not the one, true God…Therefore, I repeat, to have a God properly means to have something in which the heart trusts completely.” (The Book of Concord, Fortress Press 1959, 365-366)
St. John could have felt proud of his visions of Jesus, and of the heavenly Jerusalem. Or else he could have dispaired and fallen into a state of panic at the sight of hell-fire and destruction. As it is, he falls at the feet of the messenger and is told “Worship God!”. God is on the throne. Not just any god, but the one who is identified with the Lamb who was slain, Jesus who conquered death by his cross and resurrection.
In light of what is going on in Ft. McMurray this week: What gives us confidence, happiness, security? In light of the challenges, small and great, of going forward this day, what gives me strength?
Moses was told, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest… I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”
O God of earth and sky, water and fire,
Have mercy on us.
God of cross and altar, Jesus our refuge and strength,
Have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, our comforter and counselor,
Have mercy on us.
Have mercy on the people fleeing for their lives.
Send gentle and abundant rain upon the dry forests,
and protect those whose job it is to protect.
Comfort those who have lost home, possessions, pets, community, and documents.
Steady the hearts of children shaken with fright,
Lift the hearts of adults weighed down with worry.
Give protection and compassion to those who serve in disaster relief.
Grant wisdom and foresight to all civic leaders.
Give rest and peace to all creation.