November 17, 2019

New Heaven, New Earth


Text: Isaiah 65:17-25

Draw or write your vision of a new heaven and a new earth. What do you hope for your children or grandchildren, your community, your country, the world? What do you hope for yourself?

Either use the big paper on the wall or the little slips of paper in the bulletin.


So, why doesn’t our world, our community, our lives look like what we’ve put on the wall? We read Isaiah’s promise of a new heaven and a new earth and we’re like nope, not there yet. Jesus came to bring Isaiah’s vision to fruition, yet when he ascended to heaven day to day life for most people hadn’t changed much at all. His church would spread throughout all the world, yet two thousand years later we still long for a new heaven and a new earth, we still pray “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”

Perhaps our standards keep changing. Perhaps if Jesus’ disciples came back today they would see a world so radically different, so filled with the outpouring of love and peace and justice and hope and caregiving they would stand amazed at the power of the gospel to change the world. Perhaps because we live in our world we just don’t see how close to the heavenly vision it has become.

Or perhaps we’re just as stuck as we think we are. The cries of the poor are the same cries as those Isaiah heard, as those Jesus heard. The pain of a parent who loses their child, the pain of death before we’ve lived a full life, the pain of injustice, of corruption, of people being left behind, of war, of neighbors, children being lost, of our elderly being left alone, the sense God is not here, God’s promise has passed us by.

I’m always amazed as I read the gospels how few people get Jesus. At the feeding of the five thousand people are happy to take the free bread but don’t understand the true saving power of God’s provision. The disciples see signs and wonders, hear amazing words, but also don’t fully understand. The political and religious leadership see enough to understand the threat Jesus presented, to their power, to their wealth, to their way of life. They profited from suffering, from wars, from injustice, from hatred, from control, so they tried to cancel Jesus, they put him on a cross.

But a few people did get it. And the cross couldn’t hold Jesus. And in the resurrection, through the holy spirit, those who got it found a power unstoppable by any human agency. They changed how they related to themselves. They changed how they related to their neighbors. They changed who they defined as their neighbors. In the face of often intense opposition they changed a little corner of their world. Some of them died as Jesus died. Others rose to political or economic power and used their wealth and influence to shape a little more of the world in God’s image. They got it and through them the kingdom of God came near.

Do you get it? Are you willing to let Christ change you so you can help bring about God’s vision of a new heaven and a new earth? Are you willing to give up the power and comfort of anger and resentment and hate so you can bring peace in your little corner? Are you willing to give up the allure of wealth and the elusive goal of never worrying about money so someone else can have a little more? Are you willing to become vulnerable so you can feel the hurt and pain of this world in a way leaving you little choice but to love with all the love God gives you? Are you willing to live as God’s kingdom has already come, and in doing so bring it that much closer for somebody else?