It’s the Holiday Season in the United States. Lights, music, trees, the gusher of retail dollars and – Messiah sing-alongs. Yes, as a member of the Taos Community Chorus (tenor until faced with a high A), I am participating. How many times, how many places? And yet these texts from Isaiah and Revelation, set to Handel’s exuberant music, continue to inspire and thrill. May the abuses and domination of all twisted religious expression wither and perish. Please, dear God, save this glorious music.
One of the most powerful choruses is based on a surreal image from Revelation 5:12: “Worthy is the lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” (NRSV) Or in the King’s English used by Handel, “Worthy is the lamb that was slain.”
The obvious reference here is to the glorification of Christ, crucified by the threatened powers and resurrected in an immutable assertion that life as intended, the true spirit of love and compassion, can never be conquered, whether by evil intent or physical demise.
But it seems to me there is more in the phrase. As we journey from our experience of scarcity and fear under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; as we begin to know and trust it as the Tree of Life, there is always a lamb to be slain. The Buddha asserts with certainty, life is duhkha. We will suffer. The innocence of the lamb will be ravaged. We can delude and harden ourselves. There will be sickness. There will be abusers and victims. There will be war and hunger and loss of loved ones. And in the end, we will die.
No lamb avoids the slaughter. Worthy is the one that faces and embraces it. It’s not that some perverse deity requires blood to be satisfied. It’s that we don’t pass the test of life without dying to the lies.
We can paste over it with Christmas presents and walls of security and comfort. We can mask it with youth and pleasure. We can pretend to fend it off with walls and guns and warehoused kids at the border.
Or we can make a different choice. We can die right now and get on with the real thing. Die to fear. Die to domination. Die to greed and anger, our selfish anxiety and hoarding. In the end, it avails us nothing. Why not end it now? Why not make the choice, today, to shed all of this and replace it with the giving and receiving of blessing, honor, glory and power?
So let’s sing it, clear and strong. Worthy is the lamb, the lamb that is slain:
- The family turned back at the border. Worthy is the lamb.
- The youth taken by opioids in the towns along the Ohio River. Worthy is the lamb.
- Christine Blasey Ford. Worthy is the lamb.
- The “deep state” public servant, courageous enough to blow the whistle. Worthy is the lamb.
- Jamal Khashoggi. Worthy is the lamb.
- The Walmart shoppers in El Paso. Worthy is the lamb.
- The Syrian hospital patients in the sights of the Russian warplane. Worthy is the lamb.
- The indigenous environmental activists killed by governments and corporate thugs in Latin America. Worthy is the lamb.
- The young women lured to hotel rooms and private jets by promises of open doors to the future. Worthy is the lamb.
- You and I, friend, when we die to all of this, die to our comfort, our greed, our fear and embrace the cross that leads to real life. Worthy is the lamb.
Worthy, worthy is the lamb that is slain. Blessing, honor, glory and power be unto her.
© Jerry S Kennell, Two Trees in the Garden. Feel free to quote, as useful, with proper reference.
Jerry Kennell provides spiritual direction in person and by Skype at Two Trees Center for Spiritual Development. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone or text to (970) 217-6078. Click FOLLOW to be notified of future posts.