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. 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. 3 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; 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.” 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.” 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.
Today our reading is from the last book and the last chapter of the Bible. Unlike the way we have heard the rapture will be, instead of us going up to God, God brings the heavenly city down to u and speaks to all saying, “See I am making all things new!” When I heard this in the text today, I had such a yearning for new things that it felt physical, a yearning that was part of my bones, a collection of synapses in my brain. Maybe it’s the result of Spring—new growth, Spring cleaning—and maybe a result of walking on the beach this week, and realizing that all things are not new in my body.
Webster’s dictionary says there are two forms of this human yearning—neophilia and neophobia. I would say in my house, we have one of each. I am leaning towards neophilia—or always craving new things and newness—and my husband Stuart is more neophobic—or squarely in the camp of “if it’s not broken don’t fix it.” I like new. He likes the status quo. Neither position is good or bad—only human and distributed in differing amounts, which may also be based on positive or negative experiences. For instance, the human predilection for newness may be responsible for Adam and Eve getting bored in the perfect garden and looking for a new tree. Maybe after the way that turned out, however, they were less neophilia and more neophobic. Winifred Gallagher wrote a book called, “New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change,’ which featured a “story about five-year-old Albert Einstein, who was very slow to speak and whose parents feared he was none too bright, shows us how neophilia works and what it’s for. One day, when he was sick in bed, the boy was given the compass to fiddle with to keep him occupied. The new plaything made him wonder about magnetic fields, which got him interested in physics, and, well, you know the rest.” This seeking for new then is both a blessing and a curse. But is it the same thing that God is talking about in this scripture from Revelation?
“See, I am making all things new!” But what does God mean by new? The word itself from the Greek in this case means, “superior to what it succeeds.” God is making a better thing than the one you have. It is also translated as “I bring all things into a new and better condition.” This scripture from Revelation gives us a glimpse into the world as it is now, and the world as it will be. As we say in the Nicene Creed each week, “We believe in the maker of heaven and earth. Of all that is, seen and unseen.” In this world, there are things seen and unseen and they are present at the same time, in the same place. Things seen are human and things unseen are of God.
C.S. Lewis, in The Chronicles of Narnia in The Last Battle, writes about the things unseen as the ‘shadowlands,’ an analogy for the world we live in. “Because the fingerprints of God are upon us and upon this world, we are able to experience things like goodness, love and mercy. But because we live in a fallen world, we do not experience the fullness of God’s love, but through the veil of pain and suffering.” (Jerel blog) So we live in a world of pain, suffering, sickness and death as shadows but when these are removed at the second coming of Christ, we will experience God directly. No longer will there be shadows and no need for the sun or moon because God will be our light. The sea symbolizes chaos and this passage says the sea will be no more, which means chaos will end. Divine order will be restored.
More plainly, our lives are clouded over by the shadow of chaos, death, pain and suffering that block us from seeing the full light and substance of God’s kingdom. We live in the shadowland of the life that God created for us until Christ comes again.
Ok- great—you may be thinking. Theologically speaking, the end of the world will be awesome. But what about my life here and now? How does this help me cope with the darkness in my life? Besides dealing with our own shadows, we are saddled with those of others.
What about your brother who needs money?
Your child who thinks you did a bad job?
Your spouse who is unhappy and restless?
Your neighbor who has cancer?
Your friend who has a mental illness and you can’t help?
I believe God has given us a reminder that the shadows will disappear in God’s presence by having the sun come up every morning, no matter what. It is a reminder that we have no power over how the world works; how it spins, year in and year out, without our help. It is a daily reminder that there is a God, who presided over the beginning and will preside over the end, our end and the end of the world. The Alpha and Omega- the Messiah of our lives. No matter what your present shadows look and feel like, God will prevail.
You may or may not know that my husband Stuart spent his childhood in the country of Colombia. It’s part of our family history and we love many people in that beautiful place that has been ravaged by the drug war. There is a harrowing story from Colombia that I think relates to this idea of God’s dealing with the chaos and shadows in our lives. On Feb. 23, 2002 when she was a presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt was kidnapped by militant guerrillas known as the FARC, and kept in a jungle prison for over 6 years. That’s when she says fear brought her face to face with herself and she learned about the gift of faith. She had escaped several times and helped other prisoners to escape; one was named Pincho and he was a police officer. He asked her, “Ingrid, suppose I’m in the jungle and I go around and around in circles and I can’t find the way out? What do I do? Ingrid told him, “Pincho, you call the man upstairs.” He replied, “Ingrid, you know I don’t believe in God.” She told him, “To God, that’s not important. He will still help you.” It rained all that night and Pincho escaped in the dark. She had escaped several times and helped other prisoners to escape; one was a police officer named Pincho who asked her, “Ingrid, suppose I’m in the jungle and I go around and around in circles and I can’t find the way out? What do I do?” Ingrid told him, “Pincho, you call the Man Upstairs.” He replied, “Ingrid, you know I don’t believe in God.” “That is of no importance to God. He will still help you.” It rained all night when Pincho escaped in the dark. The FARC told her that her friend had died and his remains were eaten by an anaconda. Seventeen days later, they heard Pincho’s voice, broadcasting on a Colombian station, “I know my fellow hostages are listening. Ingrid. I did what you told me. I called the man upstairs and he sent me a patrol that rescued me from the jungle.” Ingrid shares that she learned that just as fear is contagious, faith is contagious, too.
The jungle of this world is full of shadows and chaos. If you are in the jungle of your own life, going round and round in circles and can’t find the way out, remember Pincho and the Man Upstairs. God is making all things new and it is no importance to Him if you don’t know that. He will continue to bring the sun up every morning so that you will know that He is sending a patrol to rescue you. He is your beginning and your end, whether you believe it or not.