There is an image from the book of Revelation that I have deeply appreciated for a long time:
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying. ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ (Revelation 7.9-10)
I have just got back from a trip to the USA for the Festival of Homiletics. Over five days, 1600 preachers gathered in the city of Minneapolis to worship together, attend workshops and hear sermons and lectures presented by some of the best preachers from across America.
There were many powerful moments at the conference, which focused on prophetic preaching and moral imagination.
I am grateful for the opportunity to be confronted by many powerful and life-giving sermons throughout my week there. However, one of the most wonderful things I will take out of the conference was the experience of worshiping with this group of preachers – for truly, I have seen the Kingdom of God breaking into the world.
Amongst those 1600 preachers that attended the Festival were people from Australia, America, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, and even Iceland. There were African-American, Anglo and Asian preachers. There were Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals and even Uniting Church ministers. There were gay preachers, and straight preachers; married preachers and celibate preachers.
Together we sang Gospel music accompanied by a choir; old Wesleyan hymns led by a beautiful pipe organ; bluegrass renditions of worship songs; and new songs played on piano and guitar.
We worshiped in the way we had learned in our own tradition, and we opened ourselves to the beauty of worshiping in ways that were meaningful for the people standing alongside us.
And as I stood there, singing ‘To God by the Glory’ in the Westminster Presbyterian Church with all these fellow preachers, all I could think about was the above passage from Revelation.
For the vision of God’s Kingdom is one in which all the children of God lay aside those differences which we so often choose to fight about, and gather together before the throne of God, ‘from all nations and peoples’ in awe and wonder at the God who made us all.
Daniel Mossfield is the Minister of the Word at Crookwell Uniting Church and Grace Faith Community.
This piece originally appeared in Crookwell Uniting Church’s June newsletter.