The dominance of Jesus in John’s heart and mind confronts my own preoccupation with problems. Even as John, the exile of Patmos, took up the pen to write the letter and record the revelation he was aware of Jesus’ concern and correction for the churches. However, in writing the letter the dominant concern of John was not in providing solutions to their problems. John is absolutely gushing with praise for God. Jesus’ revelation in John’s letter invokes worship in John even as he writes to the churches. The revelation pulls back the curtain so that Jesus may be seen. “Look, he is coming and ever eye will see him, even those who pierced him.” (Rev 1:7)
John erupts into worship just as he greets the seven churches declaring that Jesus would have glory and power forever. Notice how John’s worship is in response to God. “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father.” (Rev 1:5-6) Then as if to punctuate how Jesus is their very life–God greets them in the letter: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is and was, and is to come, the Almighty.”
I am too easily occupied with my own voice and contemplation of problems and challenges. When I lean into those problems I too often lean in first–with a sense of aloneness. I realize that problems can turn us into worship exiles. Without a compelling and truthful vision of who God is and what He has done for us, problems usher us into a void in which we become functional atheists. We act as if God is dead, inattentive to our situations, unable or unwilling to act. Perhaps this was part of the danger attendant to John’ audience who might have felt that the persecution of Domitian or the pressures of gaining or creating wealth were more present than God.
John was physically exiled to the Island of Patmos. But the churches were in danger of self-generated spiritual exile from the presence of God. The danger remains for us as well. If we cease to respond in thanks and praise to the One who has loved us, freed us from our sins, and made citizens in His Kingdom with purposeful intent we will become worship exiles.