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Dancing With God

• Greg Boyd

In Revelation 4, the 24 elders lay down their crowns and fall before God’s throne. This sermon explores how such acts are typically performed out of fear, but here it’s actually a reflection of the kind of love that they see in the life of Jesus, and a participation in the triune dance of God’s eternal being.

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In Spirit, John enters into the throne room of God, and he sees one sitting on the throne. Then John sees 24 elders sitting on victory thrones and wearing victory crowns. At this point, we read the focus passage above.

Why do the 24 elders fall to the ground and cast their crowns before the eternal one who sits on the throne? Ordinarily, falling to the ground and casting crowns before a mighty king is something that is done by dignitaries who have just been defeated, as an act of surrender. But that is not what is transpiring here. The elders are not bowing out of fear of their lives. They are actually doing this out of love. This is based in the radical teaching of the Bible on God’s nature as love.

In 1 John 4:8, we read “God is love.” We are also told that love is defined by Jesus on the cross (1 John 3:16). God is cross-like, other-oriented, self-sacrificial love. This is God’s essence. Love isn’t just something God does. Love is what God eternally is. Since love involves relationship, we must ask who was God loving prior to the creation of this world? This is where the Trinity comes into play. God’s very being is an eternal interpersonal relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The perfect love that God expresses toward us on Calvary reveals who God is because it expresses the unsurpassable intensity of the love that God eternally is within himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the early church some theologians described the Trinity by using the term perichoresis, which means mutual indwelling of the three divine persons. The joy of the Trinity comes from this out-pouring of love.

God’s goal is to invite people, and all creation, to join his eternal perichoretic dance, to experience the unending joy of pouring yourself out for others. This is what we are witnessing with John’s vision of the throne room.

The 24 elders humble themselves, get down off their victory thrones, and cast their crowns at the foot of the one on the throne because they are mirroring the other-oriented love that characterizes the one on the throne. They are mirroring the transcendent and eternal one whose character is embodied in the slain little lamb described in chapter five of Revelation. They are exemplifying the attitude Paul talks about when he says:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, assuming human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7).

Reflecting the other-oriented love of God, Jesus didn’t use the blessedness of his divinity for his own purposes. Instead, he emptied himself and poured himself out to enter into solidarity with us. The elders are doing likewise. They do not cling to their advantages. They offer them over to God, not out of fear, but out of joy and thanksgiving.

We are called to join in on this dance of God’s love, to release our blessings, our victories, and our privileges before the throne. To join this, we need to ask two questions. First, how awesome is your picture of God? Our love and passion for God will only grow to the degree that we see God’s glory. The second question is “What is your crown?” What is something in your life that you see as a blessing? Then ask if you are willing to let it go before God. We are invited to release these blessings to be a blessing for others. The answers to these two questions will point us toward the triune dance so that we might enter more deeply into its mystery, while growing in love together.

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Topics: Presence of God, Trinity, Worship

Sermon Series: Good Heavens!

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The MuseCast: May 28

Focus Scripture:

  • Revelation 4: 9-11

    And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

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