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Easter 5C Sermon
Revelation 21: 1-6,
John 13: 31-35

May
19, 2019

 

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Revelation 21:1-6

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. 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.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us in the name of Jesus Christ, our risen savior and Lord; Amen.

Recently I was working with the young ladies in our confirmation class to pick out the verses that would be printed in the bulletin today under their names. I was asking if there was a verse that was important to them, and to talk about their personalities and talents. For some reason they got distracted, and they all ended up settling in the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of John. As they thumbed through it, they wondered why they hadn’t heard anything about this before – weird stories of beasts and dragons, harlots and horsemen, angels and seals. As I tried to explain the nature of apocalyptic literature – that it is written in code to people who are oppressed, so that they can understand but their oppressors cannot – it struck me that we don’t spend much time with Revelation. It often scares or confuses people, and it has been read as a roadmap for how the earth is going to come to an end by many people who don’t understand the original context, message and audience. Some have become infatuated with trying to apply the images of Revelation to events or people over the last couple of centuries. I fear that the average person has focused on those frightening images so much that the wonderful gospel message of the book often gets left behind … get it … left behind! But passages like our second lesson stand to proclaim that God’s intention is to reconcile all of creation, and to make all things new.

Because of your inquisitive nature, we have the opportunity to lift up those promises that are found in the final chapter of this final book of the Bible. For instance, there is the promise of making all things new. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, a new Jerusalem coming out of heaven from God. When the loud voice from the throne says, “It is done!”, it is more than just foreshadowing the end of the book. He is saying that all creation is completed, perfected and accomplished. This vision given to John of Patmos is a little preview of what is to come, when the reality of everything growing old and wearing out will be done away with. What a vision that will be for all of us!

There are other things that God proclaims will be done away with which should elicit shouts of joy from all of us – death, mourning, crying and pain. In this poetic passage, death is more than just the natural ending of life; death is an active agent that works against all life. Death is not a passive force – it is alive and active in things like cancer, addiction and heart disease, bullies and racism, broken relationships and greed, and most of all, in hatred. We only need to look around to see how individuals and systems create conditions for tears and death, mourning, crying and pain that deny God’s purpose for life to flourish. All of those fantastic, scary creatures in Revelation remind us that even though Jesus has been raised from the dead and promises to raise us as well, the powers of death are still very real and active all around us.

That is why it is so important that we as a church celebrate this milestone of faith with you four young ladies. You are symbols for us that through baptism, God is still battling the forces of death and grief with active, talented, loving people of all ages! In our Gospel lesson Jesus gives a new commandment – to love one another. But the command to love in and of itself is not new. The greatest commandment is that we love the Lord our God with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The new part of this commandment is that we love as Jesus has loved them. And just before this new commandment, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. The Son of God, the almighty at whose name every knee shall bow, got on his knees and washed the feet of these imperfect, sinful men who struggled between living out their little faith and joining with the forces of death at large around them. Loving like Jesus is the call to all of us disciples of Christ. It is a call that we can never fulfill perfectly, but it is a call for all of us, no matter how old we are, if we are men or women, or how long we have been baptized! Loving like Jesus means defying the forces of death and being on the side of everyone who also wants to love like Jesus loves.
I saw a sign recently that kind of summed this all up. It said, “Call me crazy, but I like to see other people happy and successful. Life is a journey, not a competition.” We are not in a competition with other religions or people to love like Jesus. Loving others is not a point of pride or boasting – it is our call to join God’s battle against the agents of death and mourning and crying and pain.

How can you four love with the love of Jesus? It certainly can and will happen through your vocations – by doing your jobs well in whatever you do. But you can also love like Jesus when you see Jesus in the faces of everyone around you – parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, and even those who you can’t stand being around because of how they have spoken or treated you. Living in the promise of God’s future – that we see depicted in these glorious images of the apocalyptic literature of Revelation – all of us can join together with God to combat those forces of death, mourning, crying and pain.
On this day, your church family joins with your own families to rejoice with you. We are reminded of your baptism – and each of you when you are confirmed, will have been baptized by me at this very font beside which you will kneel. Life has changed and will continue to change, but alongside that reality we have God’s promise to make all things new! I think I said something about Revelation to you – it is the future and past meeting the present in one book. The words do paint a picture of a life that often scares us as much as a dragon or beast would. It isn’t meant to predict one time or circumstance – it is for us all to read and identify with. And it comes to an end with the promise of God’s victory over all that threatens us.

Your call is to join the battle. To use the gifts that God has given you to share the love of Jesus in all that you do. And soon I will pray for God to stir up the Holy Spirit in each of you to confirm your faith, guide your life, empower your serving, give you patience in suffering, and bring you to eternal life. You may not be great like Gretzky; you may never hit a golf ball like Anika Sorenstram; you may even serve a few wings at your local Roosters along the way. But just as today your past and future meet in this present worship, may the God who has claimed you in baptism and who promises to make all things new for you, walk with you in all that you do, so that you may indeed love like Jesus loves. May it be so, in the name of Christ; Amen.