December 11, 2009

Nothing Accursed

And the one who was seated on the throne said,
“See, I am making all things new.”
-- Revelation 21

R. and her husband spent forty plus years in the business of helping people find just the right place—a place for shelter, a place for family, a place for living. After all, as they say: “Location, location, location.” I bet a great many of us occupy our places of habitation because of their guidance and transaction.

This is what I want to say this morning: We who have loved someone and then lost someone … We who have felt the ache of imagining the world without a father, mother, or a loved-one in it ... We who grieve … We are, in our heart of hearts, looking for – longing for – just the right place—a place of refuge, a place of release from suffering, a place for life eternal. We are in the business of hoping. Our hearts cry out to God:

Location, location, O blessed new location.
O for a place, for a time,
where and when God’s creation
and God’s children within it
are no longer threatened
by advancing time,
by encroaching tumors,
by goodbyes, untimely.

It is to those who grieve, to those who ache for another place, to those who struggle with the brokenness of the world that the news of Revelation 21 comes, a sweeping vision a place soon to be unveiled. It is a large, living picture of time soon on its way. It is, if I may, the New Testament’s best property listing. It is a sacred prospectus. It is a glimpse of God’s future, the precise details of which are beyond telling, beyond technical description.

Contra the cable TV preachers, Revelation 21 is not interested in vacating the mystery of how it will be. It is simply interested in the news that it will be. Not because we can explain it, decode it … but because God has promised it.

A new heaven and earth. No more sun or moon: God is the light of all. No more temples or sanctuaries, as handsome and helpful as they are: God is all in all. No more tears: God has remade creation, from top to bottom. In fact, “nothing accursed will be found there.”

No disease,
no departures,
no despair.

R’s baptism is the mark that she is sealed in this vision. Her profession of faith was her own indication that she was confident in this living hope. And so we name today the good news that she is bound up in this sweeping promise; she is already glimpsing the leading edge of this stunning vision; she will, together with all of creation, together with all the saints of God—not by their virtue but by God’s grace—she will be raised up holy and whole. And until then, she is held safe in God’s good care until it fully and completely unfolds.

This bold New Testament faith does not cancel out our grief, or sequester it, or judge it … as if, one either believes the good news or one grieves. Christian hope in the vision of Revelation 21 honors our grief, gathers up each precious tear, affirms every ache of the heart. Because, every lament is a prayer for a new location, every tear is a bold request for a new time, every sign is a plea for a coming time when God will be all in all.

In honor of her roots, we borrow four questions and answers Episcopalian catechism, from The Book of Common Prayer:

Q. What is the Christian hope? 
A. The Christian hope is to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory, and the completion of God's purpose for the world.

Q. What do we mean by the resurrection of the body? 
A. We mean that God will raise us from death in the fullness of our being, that we may live with Christ in the communion of the saints.

Q. What is the communion of saints? 
A. The communion of saints is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.

Q. What, then, is our assurance as Christians? 
A. Our assurance as Christians is that nothing, not even death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thanks be to God.