- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2000

Excerpts from a sermon by the Rev. James F. Patterson at St. Mary African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in the District of Columbia.

In John's day, books were written on scrolls, pieces of parchment and vellum 20 feet long. The scroll John speaks of in Revelation contains a full account of what God has in store for the world. There are seven seals, and as each is broken more of God's plan is told. Only Christ, the Lamb of God, is worthy to break these seals… .

Out in California, when the earth trembles they say it is an awesome feeling. In that opening moment, they don't know whether it's an earthquake, or the world coming to an end. John speaks of this kind of event. Every eye will see Christ, and all will come before the throne and judgment of God.

The question is whether you will be able to stand before Him in that day [Revelation 7:9-10]. Some say they can do anything they want and survive the day of wrath. It doesn't matter what degree you have, or whether you're a CEO, a multimillionaire, a maid or a butler. It doesn't matter if you are a preacher or an usher. All must face the wrath of God… .

It is a matter of belonging to Christ. I didn't say, "Belong to the church." Many belong, and they come to get their name on the roll, but don't come back until they're laid out, the quietest thing in the church. What do you do after church? Kick somebody, or pick somebody up. If we try to live right, praising God every day, doing right by your fellow man, you need not fear these final days.

Some of my theologian buddies are looking at the end, multiplying numbers. Four by four equals 16, and so on. But we don't know the hour. Jesus said it will come like a thief in the night. When a thief comes, he doesn't call you first: "I'm going to rob your house in the morning." When you least expect it, the thief is in and out.

What is it about the night? The roaches and mice don't crawl around in the daylight, do they? You turn on the light and they're gone. As soon as you cut the light, they're back. At night, desperate folks do so much wrong. They sneak around. Everyone has a telephone in the house. So why do you see someone out there at night at a phone booth, his collar up like this? Why are you at night driving around, meeting someone in the woods, or Rock Creek Park? Can't you meet in the daytime?

As Ray Charles said, "The right time is the night time." The right time for doing what you aren't supposed to be doing. But when Jesus comes back, it's too late then. You can't say, "Lord, wait a minute so I can get back home."

In John's vision on the Isle of Patmos, he saw "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne." What brought me to this message was the opening of the Olympics. People from every nation marched into that stadium. But they just didn't jump into line. They had to be qualified.

The question this morning is, will you be qualified? You might say, "Reverend, I come to church so I qualify. I give my tithe. I sing in the choir, so I qualify." No, what qualifies you is what you do when you leave here. Do you wipe a tear from a hungry child's eye? Help some child with school, or clean the windows of an elderly person's house? … Jesus told us, what you've done to the least of My brethren, you've done unto Me.

He said, "When I was sick did you visit me? When I was hungry, did you feed me? When I was in jail, did you come to me?" We need to stop talking about how some people are so bad until we try to help them stay out of jail… .

Do you qualify? Do you try every day to qualify? Look at the Olympics. I want to run the race, get the crown, change my suit and put on the white robe that is washed in the blood of the Lamb… . You can't get the gold until you qualify. The [Marion] Young girl ran the 100, and got the gold. So did the [Maurice] Greene man. But I want gold that will not tarnish. The gold made by God Himself.

Next week: a sermon at a Virginia congregation.

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