A New City
Rev 21:1-6 and 22:1-5
21Then 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. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And 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.’ 6Then 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.
22Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever.
No one knows what day it is. There are no words that can capture all we have experienced.
Some have lost everything...some are still suffering the stress of deciding if and when to evacuate and what their home will be like upon their return, the weight of uncertainty...some are struggling with a sense of survivor’s guilt...some now see God face to face...some feel trapped with a desire to help but a limited capacity to do so, all of us are overwhelmed with a soul that aches for the fear and loss that has happened to a people and a place we love.
We are at once heart broken and heart full. We have witnessed our city turned to an island, isolating and broken. We have also seen it turned into a life-giving community, overflowing with generosity and kindness. So much so that even while we wrestle with understanding and harbor bitterness for the hurt we’ve seen, we also can’t help but feel a sense of the sacred stirring in the midst of storms, a divine light that shines in the darkness. Last night, driving home after watching hundred of kids make craft kits for displaced kids...I drove by a handwritten sign that said “free lemonade at Donovan park” and the love expressed in this act was simply too much for me. It’s just a cup of sugar water, but it means so much more to a people so so thirsty for goodness. The growing snowball of small kind acts I have witnessed finally exposed my raw and tender heart and brought me to tears. God’s beauty just keeps showing up.
We are only just beginning to see a city reborn. We gain a glimpse of the holiest of cities, a city full of God’s presence and promise - God’s city, our city. God is dwelling here, among the mortals. God is with us as we wipe away each other’s tears, until none are left.
In this city, that which was at odds is united as one. Heaven and earth are made new together. The lush and wild garden of Eden is one with the stark and clustered urban streets. Neighborhoods separated by demographics and economics, come together for help and healing. Strangers are no longer unremarkable passersby, but are revealed to be heartfelt neighbors - connected to us in ways we must have forgotten.
In the midst of turmoil we cling to joy. Not as folly, not as a silver lining, but as defiant hope, as an inevitable wholeness.
After our city, our beloved gulf coast has been turned upside down, we hear of this sure and stunning city of life and light. This new city, this new Jerusalem is a city of rest. In this city there is no need for worry, no cause for fear. Such an existence seems too wonderful for me. The thought of it moves me to tears. And yet, I can not escape the visions of grace extended from God and from neighbor. Here, the knots in our stomachs can find release and our weary bodies and souls can settle down for a much-needed moment of rest. And as we drift into sacred stillness, God remains at work to make us new. And it is not only us, but all of creation. We are not only made new but a part of the spawning of newness. This new creation not only grows, but its trees bears fruit. It produces life-giving life. The ultimate revelation of God’s will in the world, is not of fire and brimstone...but of unending blessing. So at least, for this moment, let us take rest in the shade of blessing.
Tonight, let us boldly declare blessing; let us find our rest in our being named blessed.