Sunday 26 November. A New Heaven and a New Earth Martin Baker
Our reading today conludes a series on the book of Revelation
The New Heaven and the New Earth
Revelation 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ 6 Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
Let us pray: May my words and our thoughts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and redeemer. AMEN
Last week in the book sale we were holding, someone handed me a book that they said they thought I should read.
It was a book by the Mills and Boone publishing company. Mills and Boon specialise in publishing romantic novels. And the person who left it for me thought that there was some theme in this book that somehow I would find useful.
Reading the back cover of the book it became clear that it related to a successful, but cool and distant manager, finally falling in love with his secretary on a Caribbean island where for some reason they went together for a working holiday.Does that really happen? Do we believe stories like this?
But the presence of the book reminded of a family story. My great uncle was called Lionel Mills and he married Eva Boon. The remarkable thing about Lionel and Eva was that they were married for more than 75 years. When they reached their 75th wedding anniversary somehow the American based Mills and Boon publishing company heard about the wedding anniversary and gifted Lionel and Eva their current library of romance novels. There was nice photo in the Christchurch Press of great uncle Lionel Mills and Eva nee Boon surrounded by hundreds of these books. Lionel and Eva both went on to heaven a few months after that. Quite close to one another.
We all perhaps have stories like this about ancestors or histories. Some of these stories relate to cause. How did I become the person that I am today? What are the things that have happened to you, your stories, that you see as part of making you the person you are today?
You will all have stories about people and events that have had a real influence on you. Stories of cause are called aetiologies. Stories of causes.
You may remember a few weeks ago we completed a long series on the Book of Genesis. Genesis is full of cause stories. How creation came into being. Why people do bad things to one another and themselves. The story of sin coming into the world. The story of the Tower of Babel answers the question of why are there so many languages spoken. The story of Abraham and Sarah .What is special about our history and origins?
So think about that the stories of origins and causes. These are etioligcal stories. And there is another set of stories that tell not where we have come from, but where we are going. Stories of completion. Fulfilment. And the name for these types of stories is eschatological stories. Stories about the culmination of our existence our purpose. Revelation in particular focuses on these stories. Eschatological. The end of the age.
The simple message is that God is there at the beginning, her now, and that God is there at the end as well. We call the space in the middle, time. (or a dash)
So an eschatological story is this: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more. And the sea was no more.
In Genesis we hear that God brings land from the promordial and chaotic seas, in Noah’s time the destructive oceans sweep over the world. God divides the sea to let the people through to freedom in the Promised Land in Exodus. Jesus calms the sea of Galliee and walks across the water.
In John's vision here in Revelation, the sea, and the threat it contained, was no more. At the end of history there is a new heaven and a new earth and the destructive terrifying sea was no more. And John sees the holy city the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God and he says,
“I heard a loud voice on the throne saying see the home of God is among mortals he will dwell with them as their God and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying will be no more for the first thig s have passed away. And the one who was seated on the throne said see I am making all things new. It is done I am the Alpha and the Omega the beginning and the end.”
The story that tell of the end, the purpose the culmination were once told visually more than they were told through words.
Told especially through architecture. (Intersting to hear aobut the commitment to rebuild the Christchurch Cathedral)
You need to travel to Britain and Europe especially to see real Gothic churches.
Gothic Cathedrals were built quite intentionally to tell the story of the Christian faith in the visual styles and images that you would see about you. The floor plan is set out in a cross. The arches direct your gaze heavenward. And the church itself was quite deliberately built like a kind of palace
And modern day people like us might see this frivolous over the top architecture. But for people of another age the whole purpose was to create a sense of another kingdom. And that architectural statement finds its biblical base directly in the passage we hear from the book of Revelation.
And I saw the holy city the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. You see the whole Ideas of the building style were to create a sense that there is another world existing in the midst of our ordinary one. Here is a building based on an affirmation of a different authority. A different type of kingdom. This holy city coming down from heaven.
There are often guides that take you around and tell them about the dates and time and details. But there is also a different kind of knowledge – and often you just feel it when you walk into these amazing buildings – knowledge being expressed by those who built these ancient buildings - a knowledge and experience which not just informs but transforms and changes the way we see ourselves others the world around us.
So we read and hear about a different type of knowledge today. It is about a knowledge that transforms. We have this glimpse in Revelation I am the alpha and omega every tear will be wiped away. This is what the Gospel is full of. No more death. Messages. No more death. That is the great transformative message of the Gospel. That God’s stated intention and will for all humanity is life. To live in a faith that helps us live with a new kind of transforming knowledge - a knowledge that overcomes our greatest fears, even of death and all that goes with that.
We are incredibly informed but here we encounter a knowledge that transforms. Guilt is informative; it informs you that you're not doing enough. The good news. the Gospel news is transformative; it empowers change in your life. Guilt says you're defective; the gospel says you're effective. Guilt says you should be in tears; the good news says that God wipes away all tears.
Jesus does not inform us of our choices. In his words his actions the miracles they were all about this transformation. Signs of the kingdom. And whenever he saw acts of love and healing and kindness he said things like, the Kingdom of God has come near to you today.
We all have stories we carry around with us. Maybe like Great Uncle Lionel and Eva stories. Some wonderful memories and stories of people who have being examples to us of love and faith and generosity. But we also have storeis of pain, loss, people who might have hurt us. And maybe there are stories of blame. And sometimes for the sake of peace and justice and healing we need to find ways to resolve these stories of the past.
But our scriptrues are speaking to us in powerful ways of a vision which is all about God’s ultimate purpose with us as being one of transformation.
A new heaven and earth God among us. John is saying be assured about your future, but live now as if this has happened. Grace love forgiveness healing assurance in our grief. Live a life ruled by these stories. Stories and vision of the kingdom, and remember the command given by the Lamb the ruler of this Kingdom that comes, the rule of this kingdom, love one another as I have loved you.
Would you like to share in our purpose and mission? We believe that good relationships, open discussion and a genuine desire to seek God’s calling allows us to grow as people and a community together.