Studying with a view to heaven

The following is my summary of a sermon preached by Tom Wright in the chapel of St John’s College, Cambridge some years ago. As an undergraduate, I was gripped and inspired by this vision for my calling as a student. The main text was Revelation 5 [1], and there were also illuminating references to Job 29 and Psalm 8, the other texts for that particular evensong. The image above is my diagram illustrating his sermon.

Humans have a unique place in the created order. Whereas the angels reside in heaven, in communion with the Lord Jesus, we stand upon the earth, able to experience it at first hand. The earthly creation praises God, each creature in its own way, just as the angels do in heaven. But the special calling of humans is to stand in the gap between earth and heaven to articulate the worship-songs of creation (which the angels cannot do, from their perspective in heaven). We do this by means of wisdom, God’s “executive agent” which is also accessible to humans as we seek to interpret the created order (e.g. in scholarship). We may weep that God’s plan for creation (the double-sided scroll in Rev 5, which only a human may untie) remains hidden, while creation suffers.  But Jesus, the Lion and the Lamb, has taken on all of man’s responsibility.  This led him first to the Cross, and now to be glorified in heaven (Rev 5:9-14).

One day God will reveal a new heavens and earth in which there will be no more crying or pain.  For now, our task is to stand amid the worship of creation and of the strange creatures of heaven (perhaps these too are angels?), with weeping in our hearts. And we will see the veil which God has put between heaven and earth becoming thinner, even transparent, as we recognise God’s purposes in the world and worship Him.  So we are the third note in a chord of praise, with the earthly creation and the heavenly creatures.  And our acts of communal worship in church [Wright referred to the College chapel at this point] can equip us for this task!

[1] Similar material may be found in Tom’s book Revelation for Everyone (SPCK, 2011).

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