Isn’t it amazing how we treat famous people in our country? Because someone is on television, in our newspapers, or talked about on our radios, we feel like we know him/her . . . and we feel like we can criticize. People who cannot decide what to have for dinner blast politicians for “flip flopping” their positions over a period of several years. People who played right field on their little league baseball teams yell obscenities at Ken Griffey Jr. for taking more than a week to move from 599 to 600 career home runs. People who only broke even on their charity bake sale want to give fiscal advice to the CEO of a major corporation. In a sense, I think the distance between “us” and “them” allows us to depersonalize the situation and shift our perspective on our “American Idols” so that our role shifts from playing the role of Paula to being Simon Cowell.
I have participated in this kind of action in my life as well. I have been a major OU Football fan for many years. As such, on many Monday mornings I have gathered with friends and shared my advice on what OU could have done better the previous weekend. Even though I have not played a competitive football game since 1989 and even though I have never coached anything in my life, somehow there are times I think I know better than Sooner Coach Bob Stoops. Of course this perspective is preposterous, but the distance that normally exists between me and Bob allows me to relate to him in this critical fashion.
However, that dynamic changed last fall when I was asked to present a devotional to the OU football team at a chapel service before one of their games. Most all of the team and their coaches would be there . . . including Coach Stoops. I arrived about 20 minutes early and was waiting in the conference room for the team to arrive when Coach Stoops came into the room. He looked just like I had seen on television, only more impressive. He graciously strode over and shook my hand, introducing himself to me. We had a moment of small talk before the chapel service began. All that day, I had the privilege of standing on the sidelines and hearing the coaching staff interact with their team. At the end of the day, the distance that had once existed between “me” and “them” was removed, and I no longer felt the desire to criticize . . . just to appreciate all they are.
I was thinking of this experience yesterday as I was reading Revelation 4. In this great chapter, the Apostle John is invited by Jesus to journey up to heaven with Him and record for us what he saw. John’s journey to heaven reveals a throne encircled by a rainbow, a sea of glass, 24 elders dressed in white laying their crowns at the feet of the King, and majestic angelic creatures shouting out in loud voices praise to their God. This vision of heaven was awe-inspiring to John and should be to us also as we read it today.
It is important to remember, however, that before John was invited to tour heaven, he was working in a hard prison camp on the island of Patmos. That island had to feel a great distance away from heaven for John. From that distant place, John might have been tempted to question God. He might have wondered why God had allowed Him to be placed in prison. He might have wondered why Jesus had waited so long to return. It is possible that his perspective on God had shifted from “the God of wonders” to “God: I wonder where He is at?”
In light of that, and in light of my experience with Coach Stoops, I wonder if part of the reason for Jesus inviting John into heaven and showing him the awesomeness of it all was to remind him (and us) of the greatness of our God and how He is worthy of our praise. At the end of this trip to heaven, the distance between “us” and “Him” is removed and we can just appreciate Him for who He really is.
Think about that this week before you go to worship on Sunday. Before you enter church to sing praise and worship to God, stop and read Revelation chapter 4. When you see this awesome scene unfold, be amazed . . . when we sing praise, we are singing it to Him . . . and angels in heaven are singing harmony with our tune.