Audio 5 Easter Yr C May 19 2019 Acts 11:1-18, Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35, Psalm 148
“The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to one. He advanced toward it trembling. The Phantom was exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn shape. ‘Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,’ said Scrooge, ‘answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be only?’ Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood. ‘Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,’ said Scrooge. ‘But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me.’ The Spirit was immovable as ever. Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE. ‘Am I that man who lay upon the bed?’ he cried, upon his knees. The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again. ‘No Spirit! Oh no, no!’ The finger still was there. ‘Spirit!’ he cried, tight clutching at its robe, ‘hear me. I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?’ For the first time the hand appeared to shake. ‘Good Spirit,’ he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: ‘your nature intercedes for me, and pities. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life.’” As you may know, from the story, A Christmas Carol.
Barbara Rossing, author of The Rapture Exposed, describes the book of Revelation by comparing it to A Christmas Carol. She said that the visions in Revelation are like the visions Scrooge has. The ghost of the past, present, and future warn Scrooge that if he doesn’t wake up and change his ways, these visions are the way it will be. The book of Revelation serves to show us the very same thing. If we don’t wake up and change our ways, if we don’t reconcile our relationships with one another and with this earth, our island home, the consequences will be dire.
And then we come to chapter 21 that we hear today. This chapter is the chapter of hope. In this part of the story we hear Good News, we hear that what could be is that the home of God is among mortals. God will dwell with us as our God and we will be God’s people. God will be with us and will wipe every tear from our eyes, death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away. See, I am making all things new.
This is hope. This is where all our visions and dreams come into focus. The whole message of the bible is that God loves the world so much that God comes to earth to dwell with us. Revelation proclaims this message. God’s home is not somewhere else, but here in our midst, in the flesh right here on earth. This is a message that is not just about the future; it is a message that is operative right here, right now. “See, I am making all things new.” New life is about now; new life is available to each and every one of us right now. We don’t live our lives for the reward at the end. We live our lives because we have this chance of new life, of a different way of being, right here, right now.
And what is this new thing, what is the gift we’ve been given? Why does any of this make any sense at all? It is the gift of God with us, the gift of Jesus Christ who lived this life, just like you and me. Jesus who suffered and cried, Jesus who loved his friends, even Peter who denied him, and Judas who betrayed him, Jesus, who would not give into the cultural pressures of his time. Jesus who was God who is God and who will be God forever, whose work in his life in his suffering in his death and in the resurrection gives us something new, gives us the truth of a transformed life, calls us into a life that is about hope and growth and love and forgiveness, it calls us away from a life of self-centered and self-serving narcissism. Hope is what revelation is about.
When we embark on the journey of transformation, we enter the land of hope. When we enter the land of hope, we are in fact transformed, we are made new, we occupy a new space, we are given the gifts for living this life fully alive, where out of death comes new life, out of sadness comes hew hope, out of crying and pain come new love.
The vision of revelation is meant to be God’s vision by which we live our lives right now, as followers of the Lamb in our world. According to Barbara Rossing, “The Lamb is leading us on an exodus out of the heart of empire, out of the heart of addiction to violence, greed, fear, and unjust lifestyle or whatever holds each of us most captive. It is an exodus we can experience each day. Tenderly, gently, the Lamb is guiding us to pastures of life and healing beside God’s river.”
The theme of exodus runs through the entire book of revelation, and it is the theme that guides us through our Christian lives. Each of us, and all of us together wander through the wilderness of all that which enslaves us, all that which hurts us and causes us to protect our hurts and fears at all costs. That is what the scary stuff of revelation is. It is the powers that enslave us. The powers of empire that demand worship and adoration at all cost. The powers of possession that cause us to fool ourselves into believing that people and things are ours to possess. The powers of self doubt that fool us into believing that we are not worthy to be loved by God. But it is also the theme of exodus that assures us that God is God and we are God’s people, and we can do nothing to cause God to break that covenant. That is the liberation, that is the freedom.
The vision of Revelation also is a vision of God’s dream right here right now, as well as that which is yet to come. We live in the tension of this vision always. You and I have been claimed by God at our baptism. We participate in God’s dream by sharing the love of God in Christ. They truly know we are Christians by our love. This 21st chapter of Revelation has been paired with the gospel of John chapter 13, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. By this everyone will know that you have love for one another. We know that according to John, being a follower of Jesus is to love one another. Nothing more, nothing less.
You and I participate in God’s dream when we love one another. You and I change one life at a time when we love one another. You and I change people around us when we love one another. You and I can change the world when we love one another, because it is Love that wins. You and I can participate in the new creation described in Revelation when we welcome God in our midst, when we treat each and every person as if that person is created in God’s image, because they are. You and I can be an incarnational community, a community of love, of hope, of resurrection and of transformation right now, we don’t have to wait until some time in the future.
Welcoming God among mortals, expecting Jesus with us, this is our call, this is the Christian life we are to be about.
Thanks be to God, Amen. Alleluia.