Pathway to God
Scripture: Revelation 21: 1-6
Sermon: “Pathway to God”
I’ve noticed that in my lifetime, whenever the book of Revelation gets mentioned, there is a bit of a tremble, and nervousness. It such a wild book, and not exactly easy to understand! It’s also the very last book of the Christian Bible, and one that we would not simply neglect.
In a novel, one reads about different characters and their stories (and backstories sometimes) and we get to know the characters so intimately, that we miss them when we’ve finished the book. The final chapter typically brings it all together, making sense of those loose ends that we didn’t understand before.
Revelation isn’t that neatly wrapped. One scholar remarks that the author of Revelation (who is John), “knows that human language is incapable of expressing, just as human imagination is incapable of perceiving, the reality of things in the eternal world as they truly are.” So John seeks out to portray the end metaphorically. Revelation is indeed John’s last depiction of the End.
Today’s Scripture beautifully begins with the words of what was seen! It sounds glorious...a “new heaven and a new earth.” All that we’ve known before—as heaven and earth has passed away. There is no more sea, and the sight before John now is the holy city—the new Jerusalem! The scene described is one we long for, even if we can’t picture what it will actually ‘look’ like with our limited human vision at the moment. We do know, that God will be there!
How can one even begin to describe a new world? It is definitely something we creatures seem to long for. But we also know life on earth was never promised to be perfect. We’ve been given breath and life and love and one another—we’ve been given the freedom to make choices, and we’ve grown from our differences. Our own imagination of a “new world” might only mean our own idea of what a world should be. Which means we’d only know to approach such a concept from our own culture, upbringing, country, etc. A new world will mean oh so much more than any perfect world we might dream up.
We have a limited concept of heaven as we know it now. In the context this Scripture, it says the first heaven and earth have passed away—and the sea was no more. This is John’s metaphorical way of description. The ocean itself is not cursed—but the sea in Israel’s imagination represents chaos, darkness, and the deep. A new city is God’s doing! Not as we know a city to be, but as a new creation altogether—a category we can’t yet fathom. But one that within us, we long for.
My sons have introduced me to some new music this past week. A band called Fleet Foxes have written a song called “Helplessness Blues.” It’s a song that seems to lend to a sense of loss, and particularly a lack of being able to entirely describe what they are longing for. It beings with the description that as a child, many of us are taught that we are like snowflakes. Each one of us, just like a snowflake, are unique and different and there is no one like us! The singer says he was raised up believing that—but after some thinking, he’ rather be:
A functioning cog in some great machinery,
Serving something beyond me.
But I don’t, I don’t know what that will be.
I’ll get back to you someday soon, you’ll see.
What’s my name; what’s my station?
Oh, just tell me what I should do.
There is much in this world today that confuses us. There is much that brings us despair. But, when I read the lyrics of this song from one who is searching, I can’t help but think that functioning cog in some great machinery…serving something beyond me….that’s the Body! Each of us serving a part in this world, no matter how small. Each of us a part of something greater—something beyond us. Each of us needing to know—who are we? What should we do?
I read this past week about a man who wasn’t a believer. His mother had died, though, and he always went to visit her graveside. He didn’t believe she was there. But he also didn’t believe she was ‘somewhere else.’ So he never stayed long. But the author of the story notes…he still went.
Joseph Magina writes that just as only God can create, by “calling suns and stars, water and land into existence” in the beginning of time; so only God can restore, bringing into being a new world in which His will for each of us is fully realized.
What will this new city be like? Our perfect city? In the end…it is this: we will simply meet God.
A professor of theology notes that most things in our life on earth changes. We are born, and we die. Historical periods come and go. Cultures can disappear, and species become extinct. Heaven—however—is eternal.
How do we even imagine heaven. Beaches for some of us, maybe? Mountains for others. Water may be a must for some of us. Honeys Donuts for others. Here’s the good news—we don’t even have to imagine it—it will be beyond our imagination on this earth. It will be a new creation—it will, simply put, be where God is!
A city is a place where people live together, work together, and contribute to its welfare together. A city welcomes people.
This new city will be even more. So until then, we can continue walking…until we finally arrive to that city where God makes God’s home among us. That vision, that hope, is what carries us! “All that has hindered, hurt, and hampered us will be gone.” What is left? A life eternal filled with God, and with joy and strength, and with God’s people. Death does not have the final word.
God is the beginning and the end. The Alpha and Omega. And in this inbetween—God sends us the centre of the story—in Jesus Christ, whose life, suffering, death, and resurrection came for us and to show us his promised glory.
Our scripture shows the point of the whole bible. Here it is: God dwells with us. The God whom heaven and earth can’t contain comes among us in Israel. Then in the tiny child under Mary’s ribs. Then in each of our fragile hearts. God makes his home here now with us. With us! Sinful and self-absorbed and hurtful and injured people that we are. God says to all of us, I want to come and live with you today.
Let me end with a prayer from Thomas Merton, that may resonate with our hearts today…
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.