2 Who has testified to and vouched for all that he saw [[b]in his visions], the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ." --Revelation 1:1. The Amplified Bible
While growing up (I'm a PK), I asked my father if he would ever preach a sermon on the following topic: where is Jesus right now, and what is He doing? He did later (years later) preach a sermon on a topic that begins to answer the question. He preached from the Book of Revelation and described the challenges for the church at Sardis, an ancient city near modern day Turkey.
During this season of Lent, I've been reading and re-reading (silently and aloud) the Book of Revelation. It is in this book that the answer to my childhood question is found. This is a powerful book, with a unique, personal message to each person who cares enough to read it and meditate on it.
The first three chapters of the book describe Jesus' messages of encouragement and correction for several ancient churches.More importantly, we see Jesus as He is now. He holds a place of honor in the Eternal Presence. He is guiding, protecting, encouraging, and correcting His churches. His words given thousands of years ago still have meaning because, for better or worse, human nature hasn't changed much in 2,000 years.
Jesus expresses to each church (and by extension, each believer) that He knows their true situation. Whether it is poverty, arrogance, fear, boldness, steadfast determination, or failure. He is not watching us at a distance through a telescope. He is ever present, and knows exactly what we are dealing with. We never have to begin our prayers with "Lord, look at what these people are doing!" He's right there; He knows.
He tells believers what must be done in order for them to move forward. He is in total control of the circumstances of human life. He is, as John says in the first chapter, The Ruler of The Kings on Earth.
Jesus has a word of compliment and a word of correction for most of these churches---and again, by extension, for each of us. He expresses empathy, explaining in detail how much He understands of their condition. He stands against the heresy that misleads innocent seekers and weak believers. He explains the rewards awaiting those who stick with Him until the end. He warns those who refuse to accept correction, who live by the motto "Do You." He encourages those who are struggling under tough circumstances. Most of all, He promises a clear and valuable, eternal reward for those who worship and love Him.
Revelation may seem an odd book to dive into during Lent, when so many of our lessons and sermons are taught and preached from the Gospels. Still, after the gospels come the teachings and after the teachings come The Revelation of the One We Are Following. He never left us, not really. He walks among His church and His believers. He doesn't always promise escape from pain, but He always promises His presence. He promises that, at the right time, He will wipe away every tear. The end of the story is a glorious one, in which pain and loss will be removed, destroyed, and forgotten---eternally replaced with joy, completion, reunion, and reward.