The Christ of the Lampstands
It was Sunday. The young Ugandan school teacher was in a rebellious mood. He had stamped out of church earlier that day, enraged by the Christian message he had heard. The rest of the Sunday he had spent drinking. Just then a friend rode up on a bicycle and spoke to him.
“When I was in church today, something happened to me. God has forgiven me the wrongs I have done. Jesus has become my Savior!” Apologizing for various misdeeds, the friend then rode off into the village.
It was like a thunderclap to this school teacher. For his best friend to desert him in his rebellion – to change his mind about God and about Jesus Christ!… It was too much. Years later Festo told of how the encounter on the road had opened his eyes.
“I made for my room. I was kneeling, seeking forgiveness, seeking restoration. I began to cry to God, and my eyes were opened to his love on the cross. I realized that the death of Christ was because of me. Then it was as if the Lord said, ‘This is also how much I love you.’
“I felt a tremendous liberation. I had been running away from God’s love – and now this freedom! I jumped to my feet. I remember saying, ‘Lord, give me permission for one more week… just one more week… to live – and I will tell everyone I meet about this!’”
Festo Kivengere rushed outside. A woman was passing by, a hundred yards away.
‘Stop! Stop!’ shouted the young man. ‘Jesus Christ has come my way today!’ The woman tossed her head and turned away. Drunk! And on a Sunday!
But it was the beginning of a new life for Festo Kivengere. Later he was to become a great evangelist in Africa, and a bishop in the Church of Uganda. Everything had become alive on that Sunday evening, when the vision of Christ crucified and alive for ever had come into focus.
Richard Bewes tells of this account in his book on Revelation (adapted for this letter). Then he concludes, ‘Whether it comes through normal or super-normal channels [we might say ordinary or extra-ordinary means], it is – ultimately – a vision, a concept of Christ himself, that gives power to New Testament Christianity. Take that away, and we are left with dead bones of a dry morality, devoid of comfort, and powerless to change anything.’
The Book of Revelation reminds us that Christianity is full of comfort – and has power to change the world! As in Festo’s case, it was a Sunday when John caught his glimpse of glory. This Sunday we will look at John’s vision of the risen Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation 1:9-20 as we consider The Christ of the lampstands (churches). But this vision and the message were not only for John. They are for the whole Church of Jesus Christ. Indeed, through this Apocalypse (Revelation), Christ is speaking to all of his Church.
Our prayer is that we will hear his voice and experience his power to change us all. It may be this very Sunday. Won’t you join us? Can we count on your prayers as we prepare and as we gather to worship? May the Lord grant us his grace this week as we look together at this vision of the Christ of the Church.
By His Grace and For His Glory,