Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Text: Revelation 21:5
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."

"I am making everything new!"

I think most of us like to get something new. It may be something small and simple but because it is new and is given with love we get all excited about it. Sometimes it is a new friendship that makes us happy. Other times it is the new beginning that we get after life-saving surgery. Then there is the new life Ė the birth of a baby, flower bulbs poking up through the ground and buds bursting into bloom. New things are exciting!

Moving into a new house is exciting. When the Jones family moved into their new house, a family friend asked five-year-old Sammy how he liked the new place.
"Itís terrific," he said. "I have my own room, Mike has his own room, and Suzie has her own room. But poor mum still has to share her room with dad."

Letís go to the Book of Revelation. What a picture! A new heaven and a new earth where there will no more tears, no more mourning and crying and pain. The writer of the Book of Revelation says, I saw and new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth disappeared, and the sea vanished. And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared and ready, like a bride dressed to meet her husband (Rev 21:1-2).

This vision was addressed to a discouraged and disheartened church. The exhilaration of Easter was past and the first Christians were now engaged in a life and death struggle. There were persecutions by the Roman emperor and harassment from their pagan neighbours. It is true that the Easter events were important and a high point in the life of these Christians but now they were in for the long haul.

Even the apostle John, to whom this vision had been given, had been exiled to the island of Patmos, the island prison of the Romans. The sea separated him from those whom he loved and from the church he served. As he looked over toward the mainland his heart ached for his fellow Christians who were facing unspeakable terrors at the hands of their tormentors. The joy of Easter must have seemed a dream, even wishful thinking.

Here we are a month after Easter Day. The Easter weekend already seems such a long time ago. And now we're back to the routine job of making a living, looking after the family, surviving the aches pains in our bodies.
And what does God say to us on this post Easter Day Sunday?
God gives us a vision, a marvellous, technicoloured dream, a vision beyond our wildest imagination.

In the early chapters of Revelation the curtain is raised in heaven itself (4:1). First we see the heavenly throne. And what theatrical effects! There are flashes of lightning, the sound of thunder. These announce that God himself is now on stage - heaven and earth quiver and shake before God. We hear about the crowd that was too large to be counted gathered around the throne of God and praising the Lamb who sits on the throne.

The vision expands and sweeps through time into one great crescendo of praise, praise which is today's lesson from Revelation 21. Nothing less than a totally new earth, and an utterly new heaven in which everything that is wrong will be made right there, a world in which "God is among humans" (21:3), God is with us, next to us, wiping away every tear from every eye. What a vision! What a picture!

What does a wild vision like this mean for ordinary people like you and me? Does this vision make any difference to the child lying in a hospital suffering the effects of chemotherapy?
What difference does it make to those parents who are grieving the loss of their baby daughter?
What difference will this vision make to those families which are caught up in disharmony and its members are hurting because of conflict, abuse and neglect? We can dream all we like about a glorious future, but what about the realities of the here and now?

The answer is found in those words that were spoken by the one who is seated on the throne in this heavenly vision, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

The Lamb, which a few weeks ago was stripped, beaten, humiliated, and nailed on a cross to die, now sits enthroned in glory next to the Father and Creator of the universe. Everything that God has - all wisdom, power, blessing and honour - now belong to the Lamb.
This is the Lamb who knows what it's like to suffer and die.
This is the Lamb who knows what it's like to be helpless.
This is the Lamb who knows what pain is,
what it means to be hurt and insulted,
what it means to be humiliated and rejected.
This Lamb, Jesus, is the one gives hope in the face of all the worries and hurt that life in this world brings.
This Lamb sit on the throne with all power and authority and no problem is too hard for him to handle, not even the worst problem that we have in this life Ė death.
Revelation shows us a vision of a new heaven and a new earth where Christ now rules in glory.
The One on the throne states clearly,
"Don't be afraid! I am the first and the last, the beginning and the end. I am the living one! Ö now I make all things new".

Here Christ is offering us something that is so unknown in this present world. He is creating a new heaven and a new earth, a place where those who have had nothing but tears and grief in this world, shall laugh, and sing because "God himself will be with them, and he will be their God. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, no more grief or crying or pain. The old things have disappeared" (Rev 21:3,4).

This description of the new thing that God has done is repeated a number of times. The writer wants to emphasise to those Christians who are suffering and dying because of their faith that, in spite of what it may seem, God's new creation has begun and will one day break into our history. Then, indeed, the old will disappear completely leaving only God's new creation.

This new heaven and new earth will not have the divisions, the prejudices, and the hatred between people that we have here in this world. The new thing that God will do is to bring all people together as one nation before the throne of the Lamb. As Revelation says, "There was an enormous crowd Öfrom every race, tribe, nation, and language, and they stood in front of the throne of the Lamb" (Rev 7:9).

Sin and death will not bother those who are in the new heaven and new earth. The Lamb has clothed us with the newness of his own righteousness. He died and gave his blood to make us new and clean and right in the sight of God. The power of death has been broken and we shall all stand before God's presence in heaven and join with that vast crowd shouting the praises of God and give glory to the Lamb who was sacrificed for us.

The one on the throne of heaven declares, "I am making everything new!" And how true that is. But itís worth noting that this newness is not just reserved for the day we get to heaven, that newness should be part of our life right now. We are to walk as new people. And Jesus tells us how to be new in our everyday life in our Gospel reading. He says, "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples" (John 13:34,35).

This newness that Jesus is talking about is a way of life for those who gather before his altar right now in this life. In every relationship, in the workplace, in our neighbourhood, with those out there in the world, with those who annoy and aggravate us, with those who say bad about us and persecute us, in every circumstance the newness that God gives us shines through and guide us in the way treat others.

When Jesus says, "I am making all things new!" that also includes every relationship with others right now. He has made us new through the blood of the Lamb, and that newness controls us in the way we regard others.

Jesus has given us newness through the forgiveness he has won for us on the cross. He wants us to share that forgiveness with one another.

Wherever there are people in a relationship there will always be conflict, misunderstanding, and trouble - sometimes between husband and wife, between parents and their children, between brothers and sisters. Sin gets the better of us and we disregard the special relationship we have with the people in our family and become selfish, resentful, jealous, inconsiderate, and unkind. Basically our sin causes us to think of no one else except ourselves.

Jesus has made us new. That newness is to be reflected in the way we treat members of the family of the church. Just as God keeps on renewing us every day, so also we are to keep on renewing the relationships we have with others through forgiveness, putting the hurt behind us and not holding it against the other person for ever and a day. It is forgiveness that heals and restores the inevitable conflicts among people of the same congregation.

In spite of our failures to live up to God's expectations and keep the new commandment to love one another as Jesus has loved, he is always waiting for us to return to him and be renewed through his forgiving love.
Daily we confess to our heavenly Father our failure to live the renewed life that we were given at our baptism.
Daily God renews us through the forgiveness he offers,
daily he renews relationships through his love and forgiveness.

This vision in Revelation is good news for us. God says, "I am making all things new" - even us right here and now in 2007. We join with the crowd gathered around the throne of the Lamb saying, "Praise, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honour, power, and might belong to our God forever and ever! Amen!" (Rev 7:12).

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
6th May 2007
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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