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Thoughts towards a sermon. There was a wonderful program at Trinity Instituteon the book of Revelation. The title of the conference was God's Unfinished Future. You can listen to the speakers HERE.
The meeting focused on what we can say in the face of neo-Millennialists like those who wrote the Left Behind books and other believers in Rapture theology. I especially appreciated Barbara Rossing and Jurgen Moltmann in their presentations. Both emphasized that the New Heaven and New Earth will take place here not somewhere in the great bye and bye in the sky. A concept that is self evident now that I have heard it, is that our "end-times" theology affects our current living. If we believe that God will sweep up the good into some perfect place, then we do not care what happens to this earth. If we believe that God in Christ is establishing the reign of God here in our midst - we will care for the earth and those who live here.
Our passage from Revelation today says:
"See the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
We often read this passage at funerals for its solace but for the living it is even more compelling. If we pray, as we did in the Collect, to be followers in the steps of Jesus Christ, our work is here and now.
Both the reading from Acts and the Gospel give us a start on what we are to do. In Acts we hear of how Peter came to see Gentiles as full members of Christ's body, without the need for circumcision and other requirements. This passage speaks to us to day as we wrestle with issues of inclusion and exclusion in the church. Who is in and has full membership? There are many Bible passages that say that the Gentile is unclean and cannot be a member of the Body. In Ezra, the prophet even says that the members must put away their "foreign" wives and children if the member wants to stay. In our day - slavery was justified because it is okay in the Bible. Other issues of inclusion have the same dilemma. Reading without analyzing the situation of the day in which the particular verse of scripture was written, can lead us off the track of following Jesus.
The Gospel leads us back on track. Jesus says, we cannot go fully where Jesus has gone but we can be followers. The new commandment is our guide and our map:
"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another"
This loving is not just for our friends and those we find easy to love, it is not just for humankind. It is for all the peoples of God and for the whole creation. God calls us to join in creating a new earth where God dwells in our midst. Where we sing with the Psalmist in Psalm 148
Praise the Lord from the heavens; *
praise him in the heights.
2 Praise him, all you angels of his; *
praise him, all his host.
3 Praise him, sun and moon; *
praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, heaven of heavens, *
and you waters above the heavens.
5 Let them praise the Name of the Lord; *
for he commanded, and they were created.
6 He made them stand fast for ever and ever; *
he gave them a law which shall not pass away.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth, *
you sea-monsters and all deeps;
8 Fire and hail, snow and fog, *
tempestuous wind, doing his will;
9 Mountains and all hills, *
fruit trees and all cedars;
10 Wild beasts and all cattle, *
creeping things and wingΠd birds;
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, *
princes and all rulers of the world;
12 Young men and maidens, *
old and young together.
13 Let them praise the Name of the Lord, *
for his Name only is exalted,
his splendor is over earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up strength for his people
and praise for all his loyal servants, *
the children of Israel, a people who are near him.