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Revelation 21:1-8, A Sermon

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. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.’

Today is All Saints Day in which we celebrate and honor those whom we are joined with through our Christian faith and have passed on. Often we think of saints as only those people whom the Catholic Church has called saints, but as Methodists any Christian who has passed away is now a saint. It’s a day to honor the dead.

In Mexico it is called Dia de Los Meurtos or Day of the Dead and it spans 2 days. At the same time as the Day of the Dead the monarch butterflies are begging to fly through Mexico to reach their hibernation home on the trees in the mountains of central Mexico. It is believed that on the backs of the monarchs the spirits of the dead are brought home. The first day is the day that children who have died arrived and then the adult spirits come on the 2nd day. The night of Halloween, All Hollow’s Eve is spent waiting for the spirits to come. It is a joyous celebration. The graveyard is decorated with the favorite foods and drinks of their loved ones—a feast is prepared for the spirits and made to help them find their way home.

We don’t deal well with death in our culture. We usually understand that it is something to fear. Often when we see the Mexican skulls decorated with gorgeous paintings and even gemstones, we are taken aback. It scares us a bit, it does not offer any comfort. But in the Mexican culture it is a way of embracing and no longer fearing death—almost making fun of it.

As Christians we should not fear death, we have been promised a joyous and wonderful day in which we will be hugged and greeted by Jesus the Christ, himself. God’s face will shine upon us! A day of rejoicing it will be!

Our scripture, our periscope, for today says, promises:

‘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.’

Granted, we don’t know when this day will arrive—we don’t know if it will be on the day of our death or at the end of time as we understand it, but this day has been promised to us.

God has not given up on our world that seems to worship violence and war, bringing people to death’s door far too soon. No, God continues to work to restore creation. God gave birth to our world, lovingly crafting even the wings of a butterfly, as well as the moon the many universes that surround us—nothing too small or too large to overlook. Everything precious and good. Somehow sin and brokenness found its way into the goodness, the sacredness of creation, but God is not done.

We often think of restoration as bringing something back to it’s original state, but God’s restoration of creation is a promise to not only restore but to make it even more glorious than it ever was, more glorious than we can even imagine. All the words, all the images we can come up with, fall short.

One of the most difficult things for me to understand is that this will happen in God’s time, not ours. Many have given up hope that this will ever come true. It seems that every generation has believed that they will be the ones to watch and experience this world as it comes to its end. Some believe that they can manipulate things and make it come quicker, but the scripture is clear—the city of Jerusalem will come down to earth from heaven. God brings the Holy City to us, to earth. God does this, we do not build a second tower of Babel to meet God—no, God brings the Holy City to us, God as with Christ, breaches the gap between the Sacred Divine and our brokenness. God comes to us, yet again, this time making all things new, beyond our wildest dreams and imaginations.

In this new world, there will be no more brokenness. There will be no more sin. The lectionary writers didn’t think we could handle the entire pericope; they cut this scripture short at verse 6a. Perhaps they thought saying that no fornicators, no liars, no adulterers were going to be allowed in this new creation. Perhaps they thought I’d get up here and shout that you were going to burn in hell if you lie, if you idolize something or someone, if you have affairs, if you practice magic. I’ve heard people do that, but I don’t believe that is what these last verses are truly saying. If all that was true, if we were going to burn in hell for being liars, adulterers, idolaters then what was Jesus about? We are Christians and God has gifted us grace, undeserving, unmerited grace that transforms our lives.

The point of the last verse is that along with no more death, no more crying, there will be no more sin, no more brokenness. There will not be liars, adulterers, idolaters because they won’t exist. All of that will be wiped away and transformed into something far greater, far more wonderful than we can even dream or imagine.

In this new and awesome creation, God will make all things right, we will be redeemed and transformed into the people God has always known we could be, even if we couldn’t do ourselves. Let us remember as we partake of the communion bread and wine, that we are not alone, we do not do have to rely upon ourselves, that God is with us. Thanks be to God!


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