Fifth Weekend of Easter (RCL/C): “The End Is a Person, Not an Event”
April 23-24, 2016
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Manasquan, NJ
When I lived in Chicagoland I liked to bike in a prairie preserve through a lovely meadow. The path was winding and the prairie grass and wildflowers grew high. As I looked out over the meadow I could see the end of the path on the far side but no road between here and there. It always seemed like an act of faith to bike on through, trusting that the path would unfold as I pedaled along!
That’s the scene I picture when I hear our Lord’s words spoken in today’s lesson from the Book of Revelation, chapter 21: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” (Rev. 21:6) I always want to add: “and everything in between.” “I am the beginning and the end and everything in between.” Sometimes the language is updated to, “I am A and Z,” since alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. The thing is, the Lord is saying so much more than, “I am the first and the last.” The Lord is saying, “I am the Beginning, the Source of all things and I am the End, the Goal, the fulfillment of all things.” Our very lives grew as seeds in God’s heart. Our destiny is also rooted in God’s heart.
Many folks, even Bible-lovers, steer clear of the Book of Revelation because much of it sounds crazy. Some of it’s like a nightmare someone might have from a high fever or use of illegal drugs. It’s very dark, written in code, full of symbols that made more sense to Christian insiders two thousand years ago but now take major amounts of time and study for us to begin to unpack. The last couple chapters of the book are much more user-friendly, though – and that’s where today’s lesson comes from.
Revelation is apocalyptic literature, which literally means it is “veiled,” not straightforward, but to say it’s apocalyptic also means it talks about the endtimes, the end of the world, end of the cosmos. People have wasted a lot of brain power, breath, ink, guessing what, where, when the end of the world will happen (although Jesus very clearly said even He didn’t know). Here’s the most helpful thing I’ve ever read about the Book of Revelation:
It tells us that… at the End we meet not an event but a Person.1
That’s Person with a capital P: God. And that End is actually a new Beginning. It’s not like the Finis at the end of a book or of a play. It’s more like, “Now we can really start!” Here’s what will be left behind:
4… every tear from [our] eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.
Someone has said that those two little words, first things, former things, hold a world of meaning: “…with this one phrase [the author] sums up all the world’s misery of all the ages,”2 including every source of suffering in your life. The witness of faith is that all those awful things are not the final word – they are a first word. God has the last say.
What the Lord says is this:
5“See, I am making all things new!”
It’s been pointed out that the Lord doesn’t say, “I’m making all new things.” Instead: “I am making all things new.” The world’s history, our nation’s history, our individual histories, aren’t erased. They’re redeemed.
Speaking of which: God is already busy redeeming, accompanying. The Angel of the Presence of God speaks from the throne, saying:
3“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them….”
As in, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us….” (John 1:14a) Same word used for dwell, live – it means “pitch your tent.” It referred to the Tabernacle, the tent that housed the Ark of the Covenant, a treasure chest that also served as a throne on which the invisible God sat. Through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ God has become perennially present to us!
Yes, God is present to touch the tears we cry when our own or others’ suffering lays us low. But God also calls us to accompany each other, to acknowledge each other’s tears, to work to sideline suffering.
We’ve been talking in our Lord’s Prayer discussions about what it means for God’s will to be done and for God’s kingdom to come NOW, not just to us but through us. We’ve said heaven comes to earth when the people of God exercise Christ-like compassion and live out faith-active-in-love. Heaven comes to earth when a community channels its will and focuses its energy on serving our Lord in “the least of these, [His] brothers and sisters” who are hungry, homeless, desperate, displaced, lonely, mentally ill, physically challenged, all used up emotionally and spiritually –
Remember:“at the End we [will] meet not an event but a Person.” That is the Person with a capital P who is our Source and our Destiny, who says in today’s Gospel:
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
We certainly don’t make the Kingdom come (which is why the holy city is described as “coming down out ofheaven fromGod”), but God honors us by inviting our participation. Here’s how one person says we are to be employed between now and Kingdom come:
“We are all a little pencil in the hands of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”3
Knowing that the writing, loving God travels with us, let us continue to pedal along the Way, trusting that the path will unfold before us as it should, and that the End of our journey will be a Person who loves us well. Amen
1M. Eugene Boring, Revelation, Interpretation (Louisville: John Knox, 1989), p. 215.
2Ibid, p. 217.
3Henry French, Forty Days with the Lord’s Prayer.
Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham