Tag Archives: sacraments

Yes! A New Heaven and a New Earth Revelation 21: 1-7 First St Johns Apr 24, 2016

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who look forward to the resurrected, eternal life of fulfillment and order said … AMEN!

So this is where it all comes together. Starting from the Garden of Eden, all of the different aspects of Jesus in the Old Testament, leading to the incarnation/the life of Jesus in the New Testament. Certainly the peak of the Bible for us is the death of Jesus, His sacrifice as a payment of our sins, and then comes the resurrection. The way has been made for us to be in relationship with the Father, to restore what has been broken by sin for so long, but if there is no resurrection, then we still die to eternity. Our hope and promise is in Jesus’ resurrection, that’s why we worship on Sundays, every Sunday being a mini-Easter, a time to come and be blessed and nourished by all the sacraments to be strengthened in our spirit in order to continue to live and function for Christ in a dark world, but also to have the assurance of eternal life. The life we are promised in the resurrection of Jesus and ultimately in our resurrection. Chuck Swindoll quotes S Lewis Johnson: “The resurrection is God’s ‘Amen!’ to Christ’s statement, “It is finished.’”[1] Not that Jesus is finished, or all hope is finished. No! It is the end of hopelessness and despair, the end of separation, the old is swept away, the kingdom is here, it is in Jesus, in the presence of the Holy Spirit and ultimately is all of reality. The old world, the world we live in day to day is no more, it has been destroyed, swept away. Sin, death, disease, the breaking down of our bodies, the failures of age and disability. All of those things are no longer a factor. The resurrection is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that in Him we have life and life more abundant. In the resurrection, it is the ultimate of abundant life. We are no longer limited by death and disease, the result of sin. John writes: “…for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more.” The “sea” in Jewish literature was always a metaphor, for chaos, destruction, lack of order, control. The first earth passing away means the world of sin, chaos. The desire in today’s world is for fulfillment, happiness. How many times do you hear people say that, see someone post in social media “I just want to be happy.” How’s that going to work out? Do any of us see any real happiness in the world today? No. You just don’t. I don’t care what your situation is, at some point discontent, envy, want, sneak in and well “you’re just not going to be happy until…” When that happens then what? Yea …, sin! “Well I’m entitled to be happy”, we hear people say that over and over today. This is the first period in the history of the world, where people genuinely feel entitled to happiness. The more they expect, the more their definition of happiness expands, what is the ultimate result? Unhappiness. OK, I won the race this time, but how about the bigger race next time? How about the same race next year? I’m not saying we shouldn’t be motivated and strive to improve. But when we tie it to happiness and place our trust there instead of in Jesus, you’re not going to be happy. We’ve said this before, there is joy in Christ, there is the hope and promise of what He does for us. Certainly in this passage that hope and promise is being plainly spelled out: “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.” What we have right here, right now, this will all pass away, this is a lead pipe guarantee. This is God’s promise to us that we who are in Christ will be a part of a new earth, the ugliness and putrid death of the old earth is gone. In this new world, our new resurrected life, this world of the here and now will be a vague memory. And since we will have eternal life in this new world, this life will fade even further in our memory, this life on earth is so short. Life in the eternal resurrection will be so long and obscure the pain and heartbreak of this sinfilled world.
Historical context. Edward Englebrecht writes: “At the time that Revelation was written Christians were being terribly persecuted by the Roman emperor Domitian.

The Book of Revelation reveals Jesus in all His majesty and glorious victory. Its pictures and descriptions are true, but not literal. Many early Christians endured unimaginable pain simply because they refused to give up their faith in Jesus. They were thrown to lions and other wild beasts while onlookers cheered. They were set on fire, hurled down cliffs, skinned alive and reportedly even boiled in oil. The cruelty was off the charts! As believers watched friends and family members being tortured, it would have been easy to give up hope. It would have been easy to deny their faith. The Book of Revelation helped God’s people stand firm despite the storms that roared all around them. The book has one focused message: Jesus is victorious and He is coming soon!”[2]

The Book of Revelation has been a source of hope and promise through the centuries. Even for those who may not be suffering from physical persecution, we Christians today know that our hope comes from this passage. We should remember and celebrate what Jesus did for us on the cross. We should remember and celebrate that He has been resurrected. These aren’t general, abstract ideas! These are the hope and promise we have of eternal life: “Behold I make all things new.” And we know that promise is for us, the old that we live in now is gone. The new will be an earth beyond our imagination and of such promise and potential that will astound us. Hold on to that hope and promise. The grittiness of sin and death will soon be over, the world God prepares for those He loves, those who are His in Jesus, His children, will be the world of bliss, of genuine happiness, what is now a vision of breathtaking promise that will be for us the reality of eternal, joyous, exciting life in a very physical world, that will contain wonders that make today’s modern technology look childish.

When John writes that he sees “a new earth”, Spiros Zodhiates writes: “New, as opposed to old or former and hence also implying better, … Also for renewed, made new, and therefore superior, more splendid. … Metaphorically, speaking of Christians who are renewed and changed from evil to good by the Spirit of God; a new creation…”[3] This is why the new world is only promised to Christians. It will be a world that God has created that will only accommodate those whose lives are in Jesus, who live together knowing life in the Holy Spirit. There won’t be room or tolerance for those who insist on the things of the world. Who chose to create strife, grief, greed, for their own ends. As Christians we trust God’s will, we want a world that conforms to His Word and not to the will of those who reject Him and think that they can do things better than Him. If someone refuses God’s will, how could they live in a “new earth” that is entirely about the Father and His will? Our earthly existence is about sorting out those who want to live in Jesus and who will persevere and overcome according to God’s will. That is what the new earth is all about. Not about those who worship their own will and have lived in this world by their own, limited, sinful judgment. I want to live in the perfect, holy, unlimited world of true life, not a world that men and women chose to mess up according to their selfish desires. Randy Alcorn writes: “believers in particular (those with God’s Spirit within) are aligned with the rest of creation, which intuitively reaches out to God for deliverance. We know what God intended for mankind and the earth, and therefore we have an object for our longing. We groan for what creation groans for – redemption.”[4] Paul writes in Romans 8 that the whole creation has been groaning. We trust that the resurrection will be marvelous beyond our comprehension, Alcorn writes: “…the Master Artist, will put us on display to a wide-eyed universe. Our revelation will be an unveiling, and we will be seen as what we are, as what we were intended to be – God’s image-bearers. We will glorify Him by ruling over the physical universe with creativity and camaraderie, showing respect and benevolence for all we rule.”[5] The promise we read about today should take our breath away. Renew us not just for hope for tomorrow, but also with a heart to share what our promise is. For our heart to ache for those who do not have any promise and to reach out to them to share the glorious world that we are promised in Jesus Christ.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Dr Charles Swindoll     Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotations. P 492

[2] Concordia’s Complete Bible Handbook Edward Engelbrecht General Editor p 442

[3] Spiros Zodhiates Executive Editor “Key Word Study Bible” p 2193

[4] Randy Alcorn “Heaven” p 127

[5] Ibid

Mystery of the liturgy

The Study of Liturgy (editors: Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, Edward Yarnold SJ and Paul Bradshaw)

OK, over the introductions, Image

I think one of the biggest beefs with “contemporary” Christianity (CC) and frankly I really don’t take it seriously as “Christianity”, but OK, let’s not fuss at this point. But CC has this obsession with making Jesus out to be our buddy, our friend, “Jesus my co-pilot”). Come on, it’s cheesey, it’s phoney, and it’s just not true.

Jesus loves us, He did an incredibly manly thing through His life, suffering and sacrifice, but He is God! Therein is one of the mysteries of Christianity. How can God be man and God? We want it to be familiar and buddy/buddy, but it simply isn’t, it just isn’t. The church is the Bride of Christ. I would compare being that bride with our worldly marriage. Done right, marriage is a mystery, we come together, pretty much strangers, God brings us together to make us one-flesh. How? We don’t know, but, again when done right, we are brought together with a mysterious person, and as we grow together that other person usually remains a mystery. In God’s leading, the marriage relationship will probably be the closest relationship we will ever have. There is no biological relationship, but in Christ we are brought together in a mystery, a relationship so close, but we can’t really say why it is that close.

Other mysteries are of course the Trinity, baptism, communion (Lutherans teach that we receive the true Body and Blood of Jesus in communion), the redemption of mankind. We can go on and on, but true Christianity is very much wrapped in mystery: “…the NT term ‘mystery’ is not a cultic term and most modern exegetes do not see it as borrowing from the mystery religions. None the less, it has a long history in liturgy, especially in the Roman liturgy,..Keeping to purely NT (New Testament) sources we can see that the mystery exists on three levels:

1. There is the mystery that is God ‘dwelling in light inaccessible’ (1Tim 6:16) and in a plenitude of love that is always giving itself, always being communicated from Father to Son and Holy Spirit and back again. This love God freely communicated outside himself first in creation and then in the redemption so that all could share in it.

2. The mystery, as we have seen, exists in the historical order as we read in 1 Tim 3:16, Christ is the mystery of God: …

3. The third level at which the mystery exists is the liturgy . It is concerned with past events, the saving work of Christ, but it is not concerned with them as past. It seeks to bring about an encounter between the worshippers and the saving mystery. If an event is to be experienced, it has to be experienced as present. As Dom Odo Casel liked to say (and apparently Kierkegaard before him), Christ has to become each one’s contemporary. This is perhaps best expressed by Leo the Great, who in a  sermon the Ascension said: Quod … redemptoris nostri conspicuum fuit, in sacramenta transivit  (what our Redeemer did visibly has passed over into the sacraments). He is considering how, after the forty days of Christ’s resurrection-life, he was lifted up to remain at the right hand of his Father until he should come again Now all that he did in his earthly life is to be found in the sacraments, the liturgy that he and his hearers were celebrating.

Let us take two other examples from the Roman liturgy if only because the word ‘mystery’ is used. an ancient prayer for Holy Week asks that what we are doing in mysterio we may lay hold of in reality. The second is a collect for Good Friday, when the major part of the service consists of words (OT, a Pauline epistle and the singing of the passion according to St John). There is no Eucharist, simply the giving of Holy Communion from the reserved sacrament, and after it we pray: ‘Almighty and merciful God, you have renewed us by the blessed passion and death of your Christ preserve in us the work of your redemption (operis misericordias) that by our partaking of this mystery we may always live devoted to your service’. These texts and a hundred others that could be cited show the Church’s conviction that when Christians celebrate the liturgy they encounter Christ in his passion, death and resurrection and are renewed by it.

What, then, is the particular significance of the use of ‘mystery’ in this third sense? First, it is a link between the past and the present or, rather, it looks to the past to recover the power of the primordial event and makes its power present in the here and now so that the worshipper can encounter the redeeming Christ. What gives it a particular quality is that it does this through symbols which manifest the presence and activity of Christ and, because they are the sacraments to which he committed himself, he through them can convey the saving power of his passion and resurrection. The liturgical mystery can be seen as l’entre deux mondes, and that is part of the difficulty in understanding it. It is not simply an historical event (through its celebration takes place in time), and it certainly does not seek to reproduce historical events. It will have nothing to do with the allegorizing of the writers of the ninth and subsequent centuries,… nor is it sufficient to say that he mystery is a way of remembering the past, … By the liturgical mystery we are actualizing the past event, making it present so that the saving power of Christ can be made available to the worshipper in the here and now…(pp 13-15)

Christianity is in fact wrapped in mystery, it’s not an effort to be familiar with the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe, it’s to glorify Him, to worship Him, be in fear and awe, not to be His buddy. This is the whole point of liturgical worship. Dr Martin Luther talks about the deus Absconditus “the hidden God”. We have revelation, what God intends us to know, and is there any doubt that what He revealed to us, is a tiny scintilla of what there is to know about Him. We worship in mystery, we worship according to the guiding of the Holy Spirit in a time honored way of ordered worship, intended to strengthen and fortify us for another week, to confront the world in Christ, an alien, secular, sinful, sick, depraved world. We do that in the mystery of faith, we do it in the mystery of being saved in Christ, His baptism, His Body and Blood. We don’t do it being happy and clappy “Jesus is just alright by me, Jesus is just alright”, as seen by those learned theologians the “Doobie Brothers”. But through another mystery of Christianity, through the liturgy, our omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God brings us into real time with the incarnation, the trials of Christ, the crucifixion and of course the resurrection. This is not a reenactment, the Roman practice of the sacrifice at every mass is incorrect. What Jesus did once in Jerusalem has power for all eternity, the sacrifice/redemption of Christ has power for all times, it is through that mystery of the liturgy that we are brought into the very act, once and for eternity.

This is through the liturgy, this is through the faithful serving of the sacraments, through confession and absolution. People gathered together being entertained, conducting discussions about “how to be better”, or some kind of intellectual dissection, or jumping around, can be inspiring, get you all pumped up for Jesus. But it is through the liturgy, time tested through the centuries that bring us into the presence of all the mysteries of being a Christian, a disciple, an adopted child of God the Father. Jesus isn’t my “buddy”, He is the all powerful Savior, Redeemer, Lord of my life, through Him all creation came into existence. I don’t need Him to be my “buddy”, as with any strong leader, father-figure there is an element of mystery, a degree of separation. With Jesus it is almost entirely wrapped in mystery, the mystery of Jesus is that we take His Body and Blood, but He is also so far above, and exponentially so much greater and powerful that me. That is a great thing, my Savior, my Lord is so much more powerful then anything in creation and yet He died for me, He knows everything about me, but only through the liturgy are we put back into that presence of time, place and familiarity.