Proper 28C: A New Heaven and A New Earth
A Sermon After An Election
Readings appointed for the day can be found here
Luke wrote these words, recording them for a time and a place beyond his time and place, to people who were scared. They were scared of the empire. They were scared of persecution. They were scared that the world would never change.
And, they wanted better. They longed for the inbreaking of God, and the overturning of those structures they knew, through their experience, were oppressive. For them, the coming of the messiah was not about heaven, it was about the here and the now.
It was about finding a new way forward because the present way had ceased to serve.
This Sunday, is the Sunday in our lectionary that precedes what we call “Christ the King”. And, so the text we here is setting us up for a political transformation—from a flawed human governance to the governance of the sovereign Christ.
This text is meant to affirm the hope that this is not all we have and that more and better will come to pass.
More and better will come to pass. This is what the Gospel offers us as truth. And, in this truth, Luke’s listeners would have found hope.
They would have found hope, because they knew that the 1st Temple in Jerusalem had fallen, and yet they continued. They found hope, because their story is one of exile but but also of liberation. They found hope in knowing that they were not passive victims but active participants in what would come next. They found hope because they knew that death would become life and the cross the empire used to inspire fear would become a symbol that would proclaim God’s love.
Again and again and again they found hope.
And, our tradition has set us within the story of hope. When we gather here, we proclaim in word and deed that what has been broken can and will be made whole.
In showing up for this hope, for God’s hope that we might become the creation that God had first envisioned, we make known that we will not sit in idleness but proclaim the way of Christ, the way of dignity and justice and love, to a world that so often seems to have lost its way.
So, in hearing these words of Luke we are being asked to remember that hope is our story and the abiding presence of God is our truth.
And, moreso, that if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.
And, my faithful people, we all know that right now is not okay.
It’s not okay when children are afraid that they will be deported. It’s not okay, when women are objectified and assaulted. It’s not okay when calls for unity are dismissed and fear of the other takes its place. Bigotry, hatred, racism, misogyny are real.
And, it’s not okay.
And, out of this place of knowing, out of that deep place where our souls are burdened by the pain of knowing that it’s not okay. That is the place from which we are called to pray and having prayed, to trust.
Trust in God’s abiding presence. Trust in the in-breaking of God’s love. Trust that since it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
And then, out of that trust, we are called to act.
To act for love. To act for peace. To act for new life.
Act out of our baptismal covenant in all we say and all we do.
Act, knowing that our story is God’s story and that in abiding in God we abide in that place where death becomes life.
The Isaiah passage for today offsets apocalypse with tangible hope, and this text has been of great comfort to me of late,
“17For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress…21They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. 24Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.”
The temple may fall, but from the ruins will come a new heaven and a new earth.
We will delight. We will plant. We will work and we will build.
But, we won’t do these things for ourselves alone, we will do them for all. Because God’s vision is for all of us, and to assist in the in-breaking of God’s love is to life a life in which God’s mercy is extended through our own efforts. And, in faith and in trust, I stand certain that our efforts will not be in vain. Because our efforts are the manifestation of our faith in a God whose mercy is without bound. Our efforts will aid in the in-breaking of that new Heaven and Earth.
That holy mountain where none shall hurt or destroy any of God’s beloved children. God’s vision for us is one of joy and peace, blessing and prosperity. And so long as that vision is unfulfilled for any one on this earth, then our work as participants in God’s dream for the world is undone.
There is a hymn that has come to mind this week, and I wish to close by inviting us to sing this hymn together…
Come Labor On...it’s in your hymnal, number 541*
(link will take you to a youtube video of the hymn)
Let the people say,