Sermon, Easter 5C, Sunday May 19, 2019
Revelation 21:1–6 Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death”[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’5 He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’6 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 without cost from the spring of the water of life.
There are two guys given a job. The job is to put the widget on the wadget, the whole day long. They have this mind numbing, tedious job to do for one year.
One guy is told that he will be paid $20,000 for his year’s work. The other guy is told that he will be paid $20, 000,000 for the same job. How do you think the two guys will go about their work?!
One guy will be bored and lifeless. He will take as long as he can to get to work. He will spend most of his time telling his friends that his life sucks, his job sucks, and that he has got little to live for. He will display little hope.
The other guy on $20 million will be whistling to work every morning, offering to get the other guy a coffee every day, telling his friends that he loves his work, that he can’t wait for the future because it is so bright and his life and work make sense and mean something to him. He will be displaying overflowing (and annoying!) hope.
Your future shapes your present. What you know is going to happen in your future determines your now. What you hope in for your future directly shapes your living.
Did you hear your future this morning? I did.
Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband …..
Hang on. That is here – ‘a new heaven(sky) and a new earth,’. We are not floating off to it, but it is coming to us and it what we already know – in part: earth, sky, city, garden, river….
See how God’s heaven has nothing to do with this idea that our spirit gets to fly off to some cloud and play the harp all day long forever?!
How can this be?
Resurrection: Easter Resurrection: Jesus’ resurrection was not just a happy ending to the sad story of his life and death. Jesus’ resurrection was God doing this: bringing about his totally new creation right in the middle of the old one (Ephesians 1:7-10, 2 Corinthians 5:16-18, Galatians 6:11-15).
As you hear those post-Easter accounts and ponder this grand vision, you will hear the first Christians grasping for words to tell you the full magnitude of what happened.
They say things like;
Jesus is raised, so now you can believe that he is the long-promised Saviour of whom the prophets always spoke.
Jesus is raised, God’s promised new creation spoken right from the beginning and throughout the story of God’s people so far has begun.
All those promises about new garden, killing the serpent, the new temple of worship, the new people of worship – the Israelites in the desert and promised land, the stunning words of the prophets about a new creation, a new saviour, a new human, a new heaven and earth, David’s words about a new king and a new nation, Ezekiel’s words about a new heart in new humans in sync with God’s heart – all have landed here in Jesus in full.
Even more stunning: Jesus is raised not to be a floating soul but a human body still. Jesus eats and drinks and speaks as he always did. Jesus is called the ‘first fruits” of the tree. We are the fruit that has come after him. We can trust that we will also be raised in total – body, mind spirit – all of me, all of you and you will be still you and me still me but “glorified” whatever that looks like.
Friends, can you hear it: Your life is not centred on “going to heaven when you die”, but living in God’s new sky and earth now, and doing so humanly, bodily as all of you and every part of you and your life.
You might find this challenging because it challenges a very well accepted long held belief….
We do say we believe in the “(bodily) resurrection of the dead”, but I suspect that hardy any of us actually believe it. I suspect most of us actually believe some good old fashioned ancient Greek philosophy first spoken by Plato.
His idea was that we humans have an eternal soul that is imprisoned in the physical body and that when we die, that eternal spirit flies off to the great beyond. He separated the human being into parts – spirit and physical matter (body).
The two parts of different value – the spirit is our essence, the real you, the bit that really counts because it lives forever. The body then is nothing – just a shell, just something to leave, because it is temporary. Flight from it is the goal – like a moth leaving its cocoon.
In the East, the Hindu believes in an eternal soul: karma outworks itself in your life and you will come back after death, and depending on how you did, you would hopefully live on as a higher being. The Buddhist hopes that after death she will lose all identity and individuality and simply disappear like a drop in the ocean.
In our West, Renee Descartes was the one who said, “I think, therefore I am”. So, my eternal core identity; my spirit, the real centre of me as a parson is capacity to think, not my physical body. That means nothing.
Friends, this is not the biblical truth of who we actually are. You can see it here. God’s new creation is a new earth, new sky, new animals, rocks, trees, streams of living water; even a new city to live in.
And live we shall. Jesus was bodily resurrected. He ate, he drank, he spoke, he breathed, he cooked fish on the beach, and he had those wounds that death inflicted. As he is raised in the new creation, so we live now in the new creation – body, mind, spirit – all of you, all of me and not just in the future but now.
Baptism: When you were baptised you were buried with Christ and raised with Christ. You were what? “Born again”, as Nicodemus found out. New creation; that’s you. “All things made new”. Born again into this new creation right in the middle of the old dying one.
Can you trust that you are not just waiting to go to some far off spirit place when you die? We are being called to live now in God’s already begun new creation here – new earth, new sky; or shorthand – his ‘Kingdom”.
FUTURE HOPE NOW. This wonderful future already now is the $20 million plus!
And even more, if there could be more hope: There is no sea. There is earth and sky, but no sea.
For John as a non-sea faring Jewish person, the sea is always the place of evil, chaos, dark forces, murderous creatures that bring destruction and death into the world. There is no sea – no death, no destructive evil, no chaotic violence and terror, no tears.
There is water – “water without cost from the spring of the water of life”.
Jesus is the ‘living water’, you remember. The Samaritan woman at the well heard that. Jesus also thirsted on that cross of death. He thirsted for the water so we could have the Living Water for life.
We have tasted death this week and we will again. I don’t like it. None of us do. But God does not like it either. God has killed death. Death is actually dead as far as God is concerned.
We are not “going to heaven when we die” but heaven in coming to us so we can live.
Friends, Jesus is raised, death is dead. You were dead in your sin and now you alive in Christ.
And the dead? His beloved ones rest in him until that great final resurrection when all evil will be reckoned rightly, and all the living and the dead will be raised – some for this final complete new creation garden-city of living water without chaos or fear and evil or a tear of grief or pain, and hopefully hardly anyone for this old dying creation.
And that is where we are in this. We have work to do while it is still day!
We have hope to give sinners.
We have an earth to fight for and tend.
We have bodies to tend – our own and others’.
We have everything to give because we have future hope now. We will not miss out on a thing. The $20 million is a drop in the ocean!
Your future determines your now. It’s a good future. It’s a good now.
So, live and pray with Jesus everyday –
“Your new creation come, ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.