Presented to the First Congregation of Salem September 1, 2021
It is no secret that the last two years have been very hard for many of us in this fellowship. We miss our friends and loved ones. We miss our freedom to go out to dinner without fear. We have missed funerals – weddings – and graduations. These changes have been hard. But change is always hard. We feel this truth, regularly. No matter what happens next, times of change are hard, painful, and may even feel like the end of the world. This reality is true whether the change is something sad like the loss of life, something joyous like the birth of a child, or something neutral like going back to school, the office, or church. The actual change is hard; for, we have grown accustomed to a “new normal” and we find it difficult to let go of the practices – policies – people we have accepted as part of our life.
Yet maybe we are not living through a time of change; but rather, the apocalypse in Greek understanding. Which is not the end; instead, the apocalypse is literally translated as “from cover.” In other words, maybe we are finally living in a time which is bringing the world out from under the cover of the darkness – the tragedies – the injustices which we have lived under for years. Maybe and then again – maybe not, maybe we are only one step closer to the apocalypse after this pandemic. Either way, I do believe it is time for us to discover together what New Creation is being created by God through us in this beloved fellowship.
Before we continue, would you pray with me:
Holy Creator who created each and every one of us in Your eternal Love, Invoke in us Your love once more – invoke your love and allow us to witness the next step of the kin-dom You are creating within Your beloved fellowship – here. May the words we speak today and the meditations on each of our hearts be forever pleasing to You God.
Now beloved, this calling to discover the New Creation – though unsettling at times – painful once in a while – and always hard is not something new. We are called to do this every day – if not in every moment of our life. For no two moments are alike. Think about that concept – no two moments are exactly the same even if we are doing the same thing we do every day, every month, every year. Even if we maintain strict routines in our life no two moments are ever the same. For, the sun is not always the same – the world is different each time we look out and witness Creation. So, I wonder why we get stuck rejecting change and the world which is constantly made new from the cover of darkness. Why do so many of these changes create anxiety and stress in our lives? I am guessing it is because we do not know what the New Creation will become.
However, even when my son was being born – which was one of the happiest days of my life – it caused me anxiety and stress. For, my world was changing. My family was going from three people to four. I had never been a father to a newborn. I wondered if Nate would be accepted by his stepbrother. And then there was the whole pregnancy as I helplessly watched my former wife struggle with her changing body. And even though these changes were and are beautiful, the world I knew – the normal I was used to – the life we lived before was no longer; and, we had to discover what the new creation of our family would become – together.
Although our reading from the Book of Revelation is referring to the New Creation of the kin-dom of Heaven, I feel this scripture will help us understand anytime we are called to discover new creations in our life. For, the prophet John has already engaged in the changes. The powers that work against people and the beast who is out to destroy all Christians. And today we witness in the first few lines of our scripture this depiction fully realized. For the author says, “and the sea was no more.” Now for those of us who love the ocean, this phrase seems a little disturbing. But the sea for the ancient people of Asia Minor is not wonderful as it represents the watery dragon of chaos who fought against the Babylonian God of Creation according to the theologian William Barclay. Furthermore, it is believed that the ancient people actually despised the sea, in general, until after the invention of tools like the compass. This dislike of the sea, I imagine, came about because the sea is very symbolic of change – never the same and ultimately dangerous. One could even say it is chaos incarnate. Therefore, as the prophet John begins to share the Good News of how we find the New Creation he is also saying that change – the very source of change – the sea, is no more when we finally reach the kin-dom of God.
And although there are still changes in society and the pandemic, I believe the conflict of change much like the sea can go away. We can step away from it as easily as we walk away from the seashore. But to do so, we must alter our focus onto something like the New Creation being created. In literature terms, we must pass the climax of the story and witness the resolution of the new creation of peace being revealed. In the story of my son’s birth, this point was when he was finally born, joy abounded, and the concerns over changes became more distant by the moment. Still how do we here in this community get past the chaotic changes and focus on the new creation, which is not fully present – yet.
Well Beloved the Good News of how – lies in the phrase from God who sits on the throne in our scripture. He says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” And although these phrases seem clear, I believe a different translation of beginning and end will shed light on the Good News of how we discover the New Creation in a world still changing. The other translation for the Greek word arche, or “beginning,” is source. Whereas the other translation for telos, or “end,” is goal. So, let me ask, how do these translations alter our thinking about the New Creation being built – today. How does your mind shift when we consider God as the source and the goal of everything we do, say, or consider? I expect the answer is that these translations alter our view quite a bit.
Alter our view, even though we are still dealing with the changing world around us. Changes which may seem scary as we approach a post – isolation era. But just because we are still dealing with changes – sometimes by the minute, it does not mean we cannot remember the one constant: God, who is the source and the goal. God is the source of all – including you, our neighbor, and all of Creation. Moreover, God’s Love is constant and accepts you for you were created by her in Love. For me, this constant is a powerful reminder. For, it allows me to witness all people as equally valuable in God’s eyes – even amongst changes and the conflicts of change pulling at our lives. It reminds me, we are all equally loved by God. Yet, what does this mean when we also say God is the goal. Are we saying the way of God is to accept all who God has created as equal brothers, sisters, people throughout creation? Yes, it does. That is exactly what this constant means to me. It is the Good News of how God is building the new creation – together with us. A creation where all people are loved, accepted, and welcomed, no matter who they are or where they are on life’s journey for God is our goal – to love as God loves – to accept as God accepts – to be as God is revealed.
Here, in this congregation as we deal with the chaotic unknown and changing world, it means we remember the people beside us, behind us, in front of us are also equally loved and welcomed here by God. It means that sometimes we have to turn away from the changing sea and focus on the goal – God. It means we consider God’s loving, accepting, welcome as the goal in each and every discernment we make; for God is the only true constant we have within our world. When we come together with God as our source and our goal, we cannot be wrong even if we disagree; for, our love is building this New Creation and is bringing us one step closer to the kin-dom to come. May everything you discern – every day – be guided by the truth that God is both our source and our goal throughout our life. In the name of Jesus who showed us the way. Amen.