Redemption: What does it look like?

Originally Published April 2015

“The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom
of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign
for ever and ever.”    Revelation 11:15

When I think of Easter at Bethany I immediately think Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus. I love stepping up onto the chancel at the end of the service, receiving that well-worn score of Messiah, and shoe-horning myself into that herd of tenors.

At the eye of the storm of that musical juggernaut is a nugget of scripture where the volume comes down and the pace slackens. With the percussiveness of the piece giving way to a sea of calm, the altos lead us into this gem from John’s Revelation: “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ”( 11:15). And then we’re back to the horse race of full volume “forevers”, hoping to arrive at the final “Hallelujah” together.

That brief phrase we sing only once is one of the best visions of redemption in Scripture. It encapsulates all those messianic hopes in Isaiah. It is the final counter point to Jesus’ prayer calling us to ask that God’s kingdom come down to earth as it is in heaven. And there is no better time to sing it than on Easter, God’s declaration that God’s kingdom was indeed enfleshed in that wondering Galilean, that this rabbi’s Messianic strategy of healing the lame, the blind, the deaf and proclaiming a good word of emancipation to the poor is exactly what God’s rule, God’s kingdom looks like.

Easter is God’s thunderbolt into the tragedy of Good Friday with the claim that God hasn’t left us to our own devices, that God has redeemed and is redeeming us and the creation.

Revelation 11:15 is a big picture text, only completely realized when God consummates the Kingdom in its universal fullness. Yet, we’ve tasted this redemption in Jesus life, in our baptism and at the table. We see redemption whenever there is human flourishing – as Iranaeus, the 2nd century church father, liked to say, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”

Redemption in Christ is big. John got it. Handel got it. Easter is BIG. But let’s not be blind to the redemption that is there in the small stuff.   Easter is God’s thunderbolt into the tragedy of Good Friday with the claim that God hasn’t left us to our own devices, that God has redeemed and is redeeming us and the creation.

James K.A. Smith of Calvin College is helpful to me here:  “for the most part, Spirit empowered redemption looks like what Raymond Carver calls ‘a small, good thing.’….  Of course, redemption is the fall of apartheid, but it’s also the once-impossible friendships forged in its aftermath. It’s an open seat on the bus for everyone, but it’s also getting to know my neighbors who differ from me. It’s nothing short of trying to change the world, but it starts in our homes, our churches, our neighborhoods, and our schools.”  (Discipleship in the Present Tense)

On Easter morn, don’t miss that tranquil, short alto-led interlude in the musical fireworks. And come Easter Monday don’t miss the small good which is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ.