Revelation 21: 1-6
When we read from the Revelation to John it reads like bombs bursting in air over and over again, its one remarkable image after another. Seals and trumpets, visions and apocalypse, angels and creatures, harvest and plagues, lambs and beasts, fasten your seat belts folks because when you read Revelation, it’s a bumpy flight into your past, your present, and your future.
Just prior to where we pick up our reading, John sees an angel with the key to the bottomless pit who then proceeds to throw the devil into it. He sees souls; previously beheaded for their testimony to Christ, rise to life again to reign for 1,000 years. After this Satan is released but felled into the lake of fire, the books are opened, one for the righteous and one for the less fortunate. It’s fiery, it’s chaos, and it’s mayhem.
“And then” says John, “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 I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
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; 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.”
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.” 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.
This passage burst open with peace after a fiery scenario; it is like the quiet after the storm, the stillness after violent winds, it is security after uncertain endings like when a child has tantrumed for hours only to climb in your lap for your loving touch and rest for her weary soul, or it might be like the renewal of a tattered relationship with someone you care very deeply about or the cessation of pain. After you have turned the corner of turbulence you feel peace. I think that we have all perhaps experienced this feeling. It brings relief. You feel lighter as if you are ready to begin anew.
In all of this mayhem in Revelation we get an apocalypse, a vision of a better existence, a new heaven and a new earth. It is a vision of newness, freshness, of shalom. It is God granting us a new creation, a new garden for our lives to dwell in. And how blessed we are to be given vision into what a new heaven would be like. But how grand it s to think about a new earth for surely that is what is at hand for us; that’s the reality in which we live and love.
Phil Connors, in the move Groundhog Day, was stuck in the same day. Over and over and over again he repeated the same day literally, same activities, you could see the distress in his face as he work up, only to know that he was going to relive the day before. He was stuck in a time warp that prevented the clock and calendar to move forward.
What would that image look like or feel like for you? That new day? John, in Revelation, dared to record his visions, do you? We often dream that our lives would be different don’t we? That somehow if we could just start over, things might be a little more peaceful and serene. A slower pace, less financial pressures to worry about, less time on the cell or on email and more time face to face with those whom we love, more abundance, and I don’t mean material things, but abundance of good and hope, laughter and joy in your life. What is your vision for a new earth for you?
It could be a simple change of attitude that will allow you to live more fully into your life or your faith. It might be cashing in one mode of behavior for another that will help you to see differently the enormous possibility born each day.
Unlike Phil, in Groundhog Day, we don’t have to make a new day happen on our own, we’ve got help. Our passage goes on to tell us that God dwells with us, among mortals, here in Orange, in our church, in your homes, in your life. God will wipe away our tears and make all things new, make things better, heal the wounds that life has inflicted upon us – each day, every day – relax into it. When that happens we can start over again. The storm has passed and it is calm. Shalom reigns, wholeness for our lives.
I believe that it is God’s hand guiding us and helping us to experience this new existence, these turnings of the clock when it becomes a new day, a new place, and a second chance. God is there in the muck of our existence, and with God we will be pulled through to the other side met with promises of hope and transformation. It is true; there is a new heaven and a new earth, with the God of everlasting hope.
‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ God says, ‘the beginning and the end’, the Genesis, our beginning and the revelation of things to come. You need not ask for more. Our hope for a new day, a new earth is here among us. Trust in the process someone once told me, so too, here we trust that our tomorrow’s will be better than our today’s and that God’s peace and renewal will follow the storms of our lives. This is all we need.