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.
Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.
· The Book of Revelation is an odd one. I’d recommend you read it but if you do, have a book called a “Bible commentary” nearby. It is hard to understand and it can be terribly confusing. It is full of symbols and signs and monsters. I’ve always felt the book reads like a fever dream nightmare for the middle of the book. The beginning is written to a number of Christian communities in the Roman Imperial province of Asia (now western Turkey) and the ending chapters are written to the universal church. The central chapters are written to the church in general as well, but those are the hard ones to read.
· In our times and for many centuries before us, the emphasis has been on the middle of the book. Many readers saw it as a roadmap of history-to-come, a prediction of the troubles the church and all humanity would endure. That is not why the book was written.
· The book was written to give hope to a church suffering persecution. It was a dark time for the church with the regime of the emperor Nero pushing against the church and with many Christians falling away from the church. Hope was in short supply and the writer – often thought to be John the Evangelist in exile on the island of Patmos – delivered a message of hope to the suffering Church.
· Our passage today is a hopeful ones. All creation is made new, both heaven and earth. The sea, a place of terror, chaos, and mystery to the Jewish people, a symbol of all that is like the formless chaos before God’s creation, is done away with. A “new Jerusalem” descends to earth from God, and the writer uses the image of the beauty of a bride on her wedding day. The voice of a heavenly herald proclaims that God will dwell with the people, not in some distant heaven. All tears will be wiped away, because death and mourning and pain will be no more and the first things have passed away.
· Then we hear the one who was seated on the throne say "See, I am making all things new." The broken world would be made right, not demolished and started over, not repaired, but renewed. To the persecuted church of John’s time, this was hopeful news.
· And what about us? Our custom for All Saints Sunday is to remember those who have recently died and even more, to remember any of our family, friends, and all the people in our lives who are held in love. Their lives are celebrated and remembered with candles, church bells, and Scripture. This reading from Revelation is quite appropriate for we look forward to a renewal of creation. Not an existence on some cloud we might call heaven, but a true resurrection, following where Jesus led.
· We hope for and wait for something else, something hinted at in the Revelation of John: 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… How that will be remains to be seen; That it will be is promised to us. Who knows? There might be challenges, but we are assured that he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more…
· So we live in hope, not in despair. We live in hope for a future, a real future of life and not futility and loss. We look forward and believe in a life with God among us.
· The greatest mystery of all of this is simply that the life with God among us begins now. Our baptism brought us into the life of God and that life will not be taken from us by death.
· Today we heard Isaiah speak of God’s kingdom as a banquet. We heard John tell of a new Jerusalem where God would life with all of God’s people. In the Gospel, John gives us the word of Jesus to the once-dead Lazarus: "Lazarus, come out!" and then "Unbind him, and let him go."
· All of God’s creation will be unbound and called to new life. And are not we and our loved ones part of God’s creation?
"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."