Sunday, 28 April 2013

SPLC Eastertide 2013 - A new heaven & a new earth (Easter 5)

Easter 5 – Revelation 21:1-6 – A new heaven & a new earth
21:1 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.

21:2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;

21:4 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."

21:5 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."

21:6 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.

We now skip from the throne room of heaven (the vision of chapters 5 through 7) to the final section of the vision (in chapters 21 & 22)
We pass over the ‘meat’ of the vision (perhaps that is for another SPLC strand?)
In chapter 1, we heard Jesus say “Behold, I make everything new!”.  Now, in chapter 21, Jesus says See, I am making all things new.”  This is PRESENT AND FUTURE TENSES...
REMINDER: We are not to fixate on the future, especially on dates and times; we are to be shaped by the worship of heaven; we are to be shaped by the radical, inclusive, comprehensive witness of heaven: all of this making sense of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
This vision is of a NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH...BOTH!...What can this mean?
What are our messages about heaven?....
-heaven as ‘destination’?
-heaven for ‘when we die’?
Both belong to neo-Platonist thought, but not to the witness of scripture and the Judeo-Christian revelation.  The bible says virtually nothing about what happens to us when we die...
+Tom Wright reminds us, pithily: “Heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world!”
-          The domain/territory/sphere of God’s Presence and his Rule at work
-          We are to pray for that Rule & Presence to INVADE & INFECT our earthly experience – ultimately to TRANSFORM earth
Christians are not those who are to be fleeing earth for an unworldly heaven, but those praying and working to REALISE HEAVEN IN THE WORLD.
Now, this is dramatic enough...but John is shown something even more startling and profound...
He is shown that, in God’s purposes – both now and ultimately – ALL OF CREATION IS TRANSFORMED AND RENEWED
(cf. Jesus telling his disciples, “What you bind here on earth shall be bound in heaven, what you loose here on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
The old passes away: it is not destroyed, but refined, transformed, superseded...
(nb. The sea - a symbol of chaos and of God’s absence - is no longer there. ORDER AND PEACE have been achieved.)
How does John describe this?
-          He sees the new Jerusalem (about which more, next week) as a BRIDE ADORNED FOR HER HUSBAND
-          Is this marriage day the end?!?...
-          Or, is it the beginning of a whole new relationship and journey that transforms both parties?
-          And that new set of possibilities are spelt out in the remaining verses of today’s reading
+Tom Wright’s reflections...

Next week:  Easter 6 – Revelation 21:10-22:5 – The new Jerusalem

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