A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery
All Together, Now....
April 22, 2010
In my early days I used to lead what we quaintly called church “sing-alongs.” The leader’s chief challenge was to get everyone involved in the song. This was before slide presentations and photocopiers, so we taught new songs by imitation. I sang the melody once or twice, then called out, “All together now…,” cajoling everyone into joining in. When all present finally broke down and joined in, something special happened; the whole was far greater than the sum of the parts.
Several times in the book of Revelation the cosmic contest between good and evil is interrupted with a glimpse of God’s throne. There we find all those who belong to God gathered in corporate thanksgiving to God and celebration of God’s surpassing power, wisdom and beauty. The text emphasizes the sheer breadth of the community gathered to acknowledge God as the Center of all things: “A great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages…” (Revelation 7:9) Words can hardly capture the breathtaking array of all peoples. We try lamely: Multicultural. International. Intercontinental. Multiracial. Men and women. Young and old. Rich and poor.
The scene’s power is the breadth and magnitude of the gathering, all unified in one purpose. Those who would never find common cause except for the One who brings them together become united in one song: We all have the same Savior! Salvation belongs not to us, but to God.
Revelation’s contrast between the saints and the forces of darkness could hardly be more stark. Forces of darkness seek to divide, conquer and destroy. They seek a victory that comes through vanquishing the other. Saints need not put down anyone else in order to establish their own identity or integrity, because their salvation and vindication belong to God, not to themselves. Darkness causes us to separate, polarize and ultimately to engage in what the nuclear arms race called “MAD” posturing – mutually assured destruction, the only restraint left.
The Westminster Catechism asks us to identify humanity’s “chief end and purpose” – the answer: “To glorify God and fully to enjoy him forever.” The book of Revelation discloses that these are corporate rather than individual mandates. We are called to join voices with the great choir of all the saints of all times and places, and to enjoy God’s gift of abundant life together with them. The scenes of God’s throne in Revelation repeatedly open with praise and close with peace. Life in God’s presence begins with glorifying God’s greatness and ends with enjoying God’s goodness. Revelation 7 closes with the people of God being sheltered from the elements, abundantly fed, protected from marauders, and relieved of all grief.
This is also the “chief end and purpose” of Pittsburgh Presbytery – to join voices in gratitude with all who claim that salvation belongs to God (and not to us), and to keep company with all who enjoy the sweet fruit of Christ’s saving work. We either praise and enjoy God “all together now,” or we don’t really do it all.
For the sake of God’s glory,
The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, Pastor to Presbytery
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