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Communion: “worthy is the Lamb”

September 9, 2023

Daily Scripture

John 1:29, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, Revelation 5:4-12, 15:3-4

John 1
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

1 Corinthians 5
7 Clean out the old yeast so you can be a new batch of dough, given that you’re supposed to be unleavened bread. Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed, 8 so let’s celebrate the feast with the unleavened bread of honesty and truth, not with… the yeast of evil and wickedness.

Revelation 5
4 So I began to weep and weep, because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look inside it. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Don’t weep. Look! The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has emerged victorious so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
6 Then, in between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb, standing as if it had been slain…. 7 He came forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one seated on the throne. 8 When he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each held a harp and gold bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 They took up a new song, saying,
“You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals,
        because you were slain,
        and by your blood you purchased for God
            persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation.
10 You made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
        and they will rule on earth.”
11 Then I looked, and I heard the sound of many angels… they numbered in the millions—thousands upon thousands. 12 They said in a loud voice,
“Worthy is the slaughtered Lamb
        to receive power, wealth, wisdom, and might,
        and honor, glory, and blessing.”

Revelation 15
3 They sing the song of Moses, God’s servant, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and awe-inspiring are your works,
        Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
        king of the nations.
4 Who won’t fear you, Lord, and glorify your name?
        You alone are holy.
All nations will come and fall down in worship before you,
        for your acts of justice have been revealed.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

As John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Where did he get that? With nearly 200 Biblical mentions of “lambs,” this is the only use of the phrase “Lamb of God.” The apostle Paul made the connection when, writing to Christians in Corinth, he said, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Our Communion service, full of powerful symbols and meanings, grew from Jesus redefining the Passover supper for his disciples on the night before the crucifixion. “Lambs are specifically mentioned in connection with sacrifices more than eighty times in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. This sacrificial motif reaches its fulfillment in Christ, who is called “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36) and the “Passover lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7) whose blood is “like that of a flawless, spotless lamb” (1 Peter 1:19). The grand climax is the book of Revelation, where Christ was called ‘the Lamb’ twenty-eight times.” *

  • People often see the book of Revelation as an inexplicable puzzle. Some symbols in the book are obscure, but not the one in Revelation 5. John’s angel guide told him “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah” (an image of victorious power) could open the seven-sealed scroll. But when John looked for the “Lion,” he said, “I saw a Lamb, standing as if it had been slain.” Instead of thinking, “How disappointing,” he and the hosts of heaven sang versions of “Worthy is the Lamb” for the rest of the vision (the word “Lion” was never used again of Jesus in Revelation). Jesus is “the Lamb,” our Passover Lamb, the One we remember, honor and look forward to being with eternally in every Communion service. How would you express the spiritual power of the vision’s poetic message as all creation worships the “Lion” by singing “worthy is the Lamb”? When have you found a deeper inner sense of the power of God’s self-giving love in Communion?

Lamb of God, you sacrificed yourself by going to the realm of death, and you returned alive! You offer me the choice to share that victory with you. I accept your offer of life eternally beyond death’s power. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Carol Cartmill

Carol Cartmill

Carol Cartmill is Lead Director of Mission Ministries for Resurrection, A United Methodist Church. She provides leadership to mission programs that maximize the congregation’s involvement in life-changing ministry beyond the walls of the church, locally and across the globe. Carol applies her passion for equipping people for ministry, practical experience from working in a multi-location church setting, and an educational background in organizational management and leadership. She is married to Jim, mom to daughters Lauren and Kristin, and “Grammy” to Hayley and Eloise. In her free time, Carol enjoys traveling, spending time outdoors golfing or gardening, or indoors looking for inspiration on the Food Network.

The image of our stained glass window came to mind as I was reading today’s Bible passages. (Click here to see the window.) The window captures the sweeping narrative of the Bible, from the creation story in Genesis to the restoration of creation we find in Revelation, and so much of what transpires in between. The window reminds me of my humanity, and with it, my bent toward sin, selfishness, grief, fear, and my absolute need for Jesus and the redemption and hope his death and resurrection offer.

The archetypal story of Adam and Eve in in the window’s left panel captures for me the root of so much of what is wrong with our world–our desire to be god rather than allowing God to be the Lord of our lives. Cain and Abel bring to mind our propensity to harm others because of what is broken inside of us. The image of Noah and the ark reminds me there are times when God must grieve at the choices humans make, and yet does not give up on us.

We move to the center panel and see scenes from Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus models for us a life of making right choices, of selfless love, and of peace rather than fear. What it does not impart is an idea that life is easy and free from pain. Ultimately, however, we are assured of final victory over sin and death. The worst thing truly is never the last thing and that is a promise we can count on!

In the last panel, we are introduced to key figures in the life of Christ’s church who have given themselves to serve in ways that bring about healing and restoration. None of these history-makers was perfect, but each chose to live a life surrendered to God, sacrificially putting the needs of others before their own. Finally, creation is restored to wholeness, the lion lies down with the lamb, and the sword has been beaten into a plowshare. While we await that day, we roll up our sleeves and get to work doing our part to serve in the world as God uses our time, talents and treasure for redemptive and healing purposes.

This is why we proclaim with the writer of Revelation 5:13:
“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea—I heard everything everywhere say,
‘Blessing, honor, glory, and power
belong to the one seated on the throne
and to the Lamb
forever and always.’”

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* From article “Lamb” in Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, general editors, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998, p. 484.