Read Isaiah 65:17-25
Advent starts in two weeks. Yet this reading seems more appropriate for Easter. If we think about it, we really can’t have one without the other. Even though sometimes I think they’re in the wrong order.
In her Life Mastery course Mary Morrissey said, “Everything is created twice.” That is, everything was first a thought before it became a thing. The lightbulb was first an idea before Edison produced the actual product. The seat you’re sitting on, the camera I am looking through, the shirt you are wearing, everything was first a thought before it could become a thing. Even us. A student of biology knows that long after we’re pronounced dead our bodies take on new life through decomposition, and through that process we become something new.
So maybe this moment we are in is only God’s idea, and not yet the thing God has in store for us. Maybe the stuff we’re going through today is not what will always be. Everything is created twice.
In the 7th century St. John Damascene said, “I do not worship matter. I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake and designed to inhibit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter.” Here Damascene speaks of the Christ who took on human flesh, who lived and died like all of us, and yet transcended the grave to create new life. You see, death was not God’s idea for us. Life was. And the life it produces through the Christ is resurrection Life. It is in this promise that we find our hope, our joy, and our reason to love one another – even in hard times - knowing that what we do here will affect what is to come – a new heaven and new earth.
This might sound crazy or idealistic at best. But I’m sure DaVinci idea of flight seemed nuts before the invention of the plane. God, the creator of life, is no different. And we see this in Isaiah’s prophecy. A mere 700 years before Jesus is born, Isaiah watched the Israelites reject God yet again. In the preceding verse, the Lord spoke through the prophet saying, “I will destine you for the sword and you will bend down for the slaughter; for I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.” God was not happy.
Despite their betrayal, a plan was already in the works. As Isaiah watched Jerusalem burn and his family and friends get carted off into captivity, God spoke these words of comfort through him. “Behold, I will create a new heaven and a new earth.” Everything is created twice! This passage tells us that God is not only present in our pain and suffering, but that God is looking far into the future, to a time when pain and suffering will not exist because Christ has ushered in the resurrected life. This is the promise God gives us… to get through those seemingly impossible hardships we face.
When our job is lacking, our relationships are fading, or our health is diminishing, there is hope because God is at work making something new. When a friend hurts you, your spouse betrays you, or someone you love is no longer with you, God is at work making something new. As an old southern preacher used to say, “when you are down on something God is up to something.” What is that something? I don’t pretend to know. But Isaiah gives us some clues to what we can expect:
The things we did will not be remembered nor come to mind. Our past will no longer define us or weigh us down or limit our possibilities. All the dumb comments we’ve made, all the shameful and foolish things we did in our youth God won’t remember them! And neither will we. Can I get an AMEN!
In this new heaven and this new earth…there will be no crying or weeping or suffering. The things that break our hearts will no longer exist. There will be no more miscarriages, stillbirths, or parents dying when their children are still toddlers. Sons and daughters won’t get killed in car accidents or school shootings. People can love without the pain of heartache. Can I get an AMEN!
In this new heaven and this new earth we’ll live in everlasting harmony with one another. There will be no more bullying, no more meanness, no more petty jealousy or personal attacks on Twitter. No more war, poverty, injustice, captivity, hoarding resources or holding back care. “The wolf and the lamb will feed together. They will neither harm nor destroy.” Can I get an AMEN!
In this new heaven and this new earth… you will enjoy the fruits of your labor. Yes, you still have to go to work. However, your commute won’t suck, your co-workers will be awesome, you won’t get frustrated when someone thinks your idea is dumb. And of course, you work will always be rewarding because your boss will always reward you with the greatest of blessings. Can I get an AMEN!
The way I see it, God’s joy is creating – creating a new space, a new context, a new Jerusalem where God will be with us and we can be with God. Where God is present, joy is present. Hope is present. Peace is present. This new space becomes a party space, because the reign of God is a joyful party that Jesus has invited you to attend. A wedding banquet, a marvelous feast, an unbelievable party to celebrate new life. For what was once lost is found, what was once dead is alive again!
You’re probably thinking this new life sounds great, but what about now in this unpredictable life that we are enduring the best that we can? How will this help me deal with the news from my dermatologist tomorrow or prepare for that math test on Thursday?
Lutheran pastor Daniel Habben said, “Studying this text is like circling your vacation days on your kitchen calendar. You do that, not because you’ll forget to go on vacation, but because sometimes you need a motivational tool to keep plugging away until that day comes.When the shortened daylight hours lengthen your dark mood, you can look at those red marks on your calendar and be reminded of the warm sands of Waikiki under your feet."
When you need to work overtime to make changes on a presentation that is already overdue, those red marks help you see the light at the end of the tunnel. When your world is literally crumbling and burning down right in front of you, God puts a circle around our life and reminds us that everything is created twice.
Through Christ, “we are headed to a better place that will keep us from giving up on life or from getting wrapped up in all the negativity and frustrations that cause us to lose focus and direction.” Yes, God is up to something. We may not know exactly what it is but we have some clues to know what to expect. We are never without hope.
Hope is the sole message of Advent that leads us to the beauty of Christmas morning. The hope God gave us in the stable is also the hope we find in the Easter tomb. Everything is created twice – and with God, it’s always for a greater purpose. While Isaiah gives us a great picture of what God is up to, Jesus shows us how to begin living that new reality today. In Jesus God is making painful memories, anger and sorrow disappear. So why bother holding on to grudges now?
Jesus teaches us to forgive the sins committed against us, just as God has forgiven and forgotten what we’ve done to others. Let your resentment go and focus on the love that God has placed in you. Today is the day to give up all arrogance and all judgments and condemnations and take on a heart as gentle and humble as the heart of Christ who will bring you to that place where God has always imagined you to be – in a new heaven and a new earth.
I know we can’t circle the day on a calendar when Jesus will return, and make everything new. But I can stay encircled in Jesus’ love and the hope that his love brought into the world. We can be that love for others to understand that the pain they are feeling now will no longer be pain but joy. By seeing and doing what Jesus did, not only will we set foot in that new heaven and new earth, but we will also help usher it in today, tomorrow and forever. Can I get an AMEN!
LET US PRAY:
Loving God, you are forever patient with us. As we fumble with our lives, and make messes of things, you are busy at work planning and preparing a place for us all. Help us to understand this in both good times and bad, when we are feeling grateful or feeling like the wind has been knocked out of our sails. In all times may our focus be on you and all that you are doing through Christ the Lord, Amen.
Greatly indebted to Rev. Daniel Habben for his inspiring sermon “When Lions Eat Straw” on Nov. 15, 2010 (accessed on Nov. 14, 2019). www.sermoncentral.com
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year C. Vol. 2 (Westminster John Knox: 2009) pp.354-359.
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
Worship with us live on Facebook
Sunday at 11:00 a.m.