All Request Summer Hymn Sing
June 24, 2018
Text: Revelation 21:1-8
Song: Imagine by John Lennon & Yoko Ono
Imagine a new world, a different world…
A utopia – a perfect world where everyone lives in a spirit of peace and generosity with everyone else. There’s no reason to fight, no reason to die, no pain, no hunger, no fear.
A world so far from the world of 1970 when John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote this song. A world so far from the one in which we live. A world echoed in the biblical images found at the end of Revelation:
From Revelation 21:
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. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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,
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning, crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
The new Jerusalem. A city so filled with the glory of God it calls all humanity to stream through its open gates. Holy light spills beyond the city’s boundaries, cleansing all who seek God’s presence. A city with no church, no temple, a city where God simply is, and all know the divine.
A stream bubbles forth under the divine throne.
The stream of creation. The stream from the garden.
When the Lord God made earth and heaven, when no shrub of the field was yet on the earth and no grasses of the field had yet sprouted, a stream welled up from the ground and watered the whole surface of the earth.
The Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being. The Lord planted a garden in Eden and placed the man whom he had formed there.
The Garden of Eden. The place of peace and of harmony made possible by the holy water of the river of life. The garden of harmony between humanity and God. Of harmony between humanity and nature. A place without religion, without borders, free from want or need, pain or death.
Two parallel Biblical visions. One of the world as was in the beginning. One of the world as it shall become. And about a thousand or so pages of real life in between. A thousand or so pages of wars and famines. Of refugees and migrants seeking new life. Of dysfunctional families and domestic violence. Of gross injustice, of political corruption and mass persecution. Of killing in the name of God. Of killing God in the name of God.
Real life. The same real life we see around us. The same real life we saw in Salem this week as federal agents from Chicago and Detroit shut down a local business, separated families and left a community spiritually, socially and economically wounded. Agents charged by their leaders with a biblical mandate to enforce laws at all costs even if it means locking children in cages. Leaders deaf to scripture’s call for welcome, justice and compassion for those who cross borders, who are strangers far from the land of their birth, who, like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, are refugees from economic and political injustice.
The same real life we see in the everyday brokenness affecting our lives, our homes, our community and out nature.
Page after page of real life bookended by a vision of humanity, of creation, at peace with itself, at peace with its God. A vision emergent too in the voices of the prophets bringing hope to God’s people at their darkest hours. A vision emergent in the person of Jesus Christ whose very presence brings justice and healing, renewal and hope. Whose death and resurrection enables reconciliation between humanity and their creator, whose teachings enable reconciliation between peoples and across nations. A vision still held by Christ’s church.
Salem’s churches were among the first to respond to last week’s immigration raid. It was the churches who were among the first to figure out who among their neighbors, among those who sat each week in their pews, had been arrested. They were among the first to figure out which children would be left without parents – children who attended their schools and daycares, their Sunday schools and vacation bible schools – and who would care for them. They were among the first to figure out which families would be most hurt by lost pay checks and how to get aid to them.
Nationally it was the churches who first spoke – and still speak – loudly, without hesitation and with one voice regarding the gross injustices at the southern border of the United States. Our spiritual ancestors were wanders, migrants. Our savior was a refugee. In the name of our savior we’ve built communities grounded in holy vision – a vision of shared humanity across ethnicity and language, unaffected by labels such as legal or illegal. Communities dedicated to love and neighbor and pursuit of justice. Communities unlimited by human definitions and divisions.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, God’s holy vision unites us and defines us. Of course our sisters and brothers in the Salem churches worked quickly to ensure the safety of their children. Of course we, here in the churches of Columbiana, will join them to fight for the rights and dignity of their parents. And of course we will join with the commissioners meeting at the PC(USA) General Assembly this week in calling our government to alter laws and policies considered unjust, unethical and far removed from God’s holy vision.
With John Lennon we will envision a new world. But unlike John Lennon we don’t have to imagine it. God has already declared it. We’ve already glimpsed it. And together, in the name of Jesus Christ, we’ll answer the call to make God’s holy vision visible in our lives, in our households, among our neighbors, in our community and in our nation.