I am a man who loves a good burger. And so last week, when some friends invited me to lunch at Bigz Burger Joint, voted one of San Antonio's best burgers, I could hardly resist. Unfortunately, however, no matter how much I may love a good burger, a good burger does not usually love me.
For several years now, I have fought a weak stomach. Greasy, spicy, or just otherwise tasty foods do not sit well with me. And Bigz, a restaurant, which caters to folks all over south Texas with a hankerin for red meat, definitely knows how to make 'em greasy, tasty, and even spicy if you want to throw some jalapeņos on your ground round. And so, when I walked into the barn-styled burger joint, complete with butcher table on its tables, I had a choice: a delicious burger which would surely upset my stomach or the more sensible choice of a salad, which would be good for both my weight and digestive tract.
I needed some Tums that evening.
In our reading for today from Revelation 10, as in Revelation 5, we are introduced to a heavenly scroll:
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: "Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land." So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, "Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey." (verses 8-9)
John, in his vision, hears a voice from heaven offering him a "little scroll," perfectly portioned to be bite-sized for the apostle to ingest.
This imagery of "eating" the sweet word of God is not unique to John. The Psalmist declares, "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth" (Psalm 119:103). The prophet Ezekiel, in a vision which surely forms the basis for John's encounter with this heavenly voice, is told, "'Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel.' So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. Then he said to me, 'Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.' So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth" (Ezekiel 3:1-3). Indeed, the very Hebrew word for "meditate" is hagah, meaning, "to chew." And so, when the Psalmist opens the Psalter, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:1-2), he is literally encouraging his reader to "chew" on God's Word as he reads the Psalms. Thus, it is not unusual that John should be given a scroll to eat.
But there is catch to this scroll. John informs us: "I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour" (verse 10). The Greek here for "my stomach turned sour" is much more colorful. It reads, "The scroll pricked my colon." Yikes! Talk about a case of colitis!
The meaning of this sour scroll is simply this: Although the Word of God may be sweet to John's taste, it will not be sweet to the unrepentant people with whom he shares it. Indeed, they will not take kindly to, and even ferociously reject, John's preaching.
Sometimes, sharing God's Word is not easy. Sometimes, God's Word is even met with ferocious rejection. Will you, like John, be willing to share the scroll of God's truth even when others respond sourly?
Pastor Bill Hybels talks about the value of sharing "the last 10 percent" with someone. Oftentimes, Hybels says, when we need to have a difficult conversation with someone about a sin they are engaged in or about a change they need to make, we will tell them 90 percent of what they need to hear. Unfortunately, the last 10 percent, which, not coincidentally, is usually the toughest 10 percent, normally goes unsaid. This 10 percent is the sour scroll. It is the word that may be met by rejection or even retaliation. And yet, we are called to share even this last 10 percent.
So today, is there anyone with whom you need to have a difficult conversation? I know it's challenging - and even frightening - to have a conversation that could turn sour, but as Christ's disciples, we are called to share God's truth. All of God's truth. I hope you will.