"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Meditation: Rev 21:5

My friend Jay has posted his sermons before, so I will take his lead that doing so is not bad form. I was asked on somewhat short notice to give this meditation, and I wan't able to work on it as long as I'd like. So here is the somewhat hurried text from my first ecclessial sermon/meditation. It is not what I think may be a typical sermon for me. It is not DTS-approved, for it does not have 3 points and a conclusion. It is not puritan-like, for I did not hone down a propositional truth to expound. It was just a mediation on the text and answering two simple questions:

1) Why is Revelation 21:5 worth memorizing?
2) How does it invite us to the table?


Today, we are continuing our series: “Texts you should memorize,” with one from a book you may not have many verses memorized from, and so perhaps, you are not as familiar with. Revelation 21:5.

Rev 21:5 And He who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all
things new."
So often, by the text of Scripture itself, by other Christians and by our own encounter with nature, we are prompted to look on nature and praise the workmanship of God. We see the complexity of ecosystems working together in nature, and we marvel at the harmony of Creation. We see the vastness of Space and galaxies thousands of light-years away through Hubble telescope, and are baffled at the vastness of Creation. We see micro-organisms and are blown away by the micro-world that thrives around us unseen.

Yet, almost as if to jolt us down from our cloud, nature shocks us with its horror. A friend of mine just last week sat next to the bed of his godly sister in her 30s, as she constantly felt the pain in her body of an aggressive form of cancer. 10 years ago, to the day she was diagnosed, my friend's father had died from the same form of cancer. Last week, he also lost his sister, as genetics and nature destroyed her body, and she passed away. In moments like that, we do not look at the harmony, or wonder of Creation and marvel. No, we look at how the world functions and instead of praise, we cry out at the pain and disappointment of creation, of a world that is not as it ought to be.

We have sympathy in those secret times, that we believe we are not supposed to have, with another man who died young, in his 20s. Stephen Crane penned a short poem we had to study in high school. It reads:

A man said to the universe:
"Sir I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"That fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation”

A wonder at the universe can quickly turn to the recognition of a harsh coldness present in it.

We don't think we should have such feeling. But such feelings are not unChristian. It is a recognition of the reality of this world. Though creation can instill a sense of wonder, it can also produce unease, anger, and pain, and fear as we understand that something is deeply wrong with this world. This is a fact not lost to the same Scriptures that laud the workmanship of nature. Paul writes “the whole creation has been groaning together in pain.” And we know, too, from Scripture that our own sin did this to creation, but we long to be out from under it. We long to be free of this decay.

So why this verse from Revelation 21? We need this verse close to our hearts because of the world we now live in. Here, we are told in verse 4 of another time, when,

Rev 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no
more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the
former things have passed away."

These words do not come cheaply, but from Christ, Who Himself knows tears, for he wept, Who knows mourning for he mourned for those who died and for their souls, and Who knows pain from the small pains of hunger, to the greater pains of injury and death.

In verse 5 we are told, The one who has the power to create this world, has the power to do an even greater work. He has the power to re-create this world. John saw “a new heaven and a new earth.” And it was not the same as the current creation. It was not a world plagued with the realities of this world, of mourning, or pain or death. It is a new world in which the crooked things are straightened. Where deformities are healed. A new world where we no longer inflict sin and pain on others, and where sin and pain is not inflicted on us. Where cancer and no evil design can enter to disturb the enjoyment of God by His people.

This is the world where Christ Himself declares in four simple words in the original Greek:
1) Behold or Look, gaze upon this, keep this in front of you.
2) I am making, in the present. This is my current project.
3) All things – the whole of creation, you and all things.
4) New – begun again, not as they were before.

Though we may have reservations with some particulars of it, many of us saw a few years ago, the movie “The Passion.” The director made an interesting choice in including these words from Revelation 21:5 in the story of the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ tells his mother as He goes to the cross: “Behold, I am making all things new.”

It was an appropriate choice to include these words here, for the work of new creation was begun with the resurrection of Christ, with His resurrection, new creation body. The Heidelberg Catechism states His resurrection is a pledge and surety that we will receive resurrected bodies. [Q45 & Q49] The payment for sin is complete, yet the work of new creation is just begun. Paul, after telling us creation groans under the weight of sin, tells us in Romans 8:23:

Rom 8:23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits
of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the
redemption of our bodies.
To we who are in this world, and find ourselves groaning inwardly, Christ invites us to the table. Scripture calls the Supper a “communion” or “partaking” with Christ's flesh and blood. This is Christ inviting believers, His people, to the table to receive again the pledge of new creation. In coming, we commune with Him, and he assures our souls that indeed, what He has started in us, He is faithful to complete. That the tears and pain, that man has inflicted on himself, will not be healed by man, but by Christ, by the God-man, the sure pledge of the redemption of our redeemed bodies by the Renewer of all things.

Christ in the end declares “Behold, I am making all things new.” Today, we trust in the truth of our Redeemer's word, that He indeed will make all things new. Come, and feast on Christ's sure word, made visible in the Supper: that He is making all things new. Amen.


Andrew said...

I like Reformed Preaching.

The way you talk about the Eucharist seems very (classical)Lutheran, I liked that as well

M. Jay Bennett said...

Excellent work Jared!