Sermon May 19, 2019

“God’s New Thing for You”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Revelation 21:1-6
May 19, 2019

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:5ai

Where we are today is perhaps not where we want to be. The history we confront is filled with challenges and some have come to doubt humanity’s ability to overcome the problems set before it.

A father and his eighteen your old daughter were talking one night in their home in Princeton, New Jersey. They had just watched the 11 o’clock news. Ralph Schoenstein, the father, reported the dialog with his daughter Lori in an article in the New York Times. ‘Don’t you think,’ Lori asked, ‘that this is the worst time there ever was?’

I don’t know,’ her father said, suddenly yearning for the days when Lori has asked why the sky was blue instead of why it was falling down.

I think things have never been worse,’ Lori said.

That’s a pretty big generalization,’ her father said in reply. ‘I know all the horrors of TV news, especially the weatherman; but be careful of nostalgia for the good old days. It’s tough right now, but it’s still better than 1384. At least there’s no plague.’

But if there were a plague right now,’ Lori said, ‘there’d be money in it for somebody…’

I’ve never heard you so cynical,’ her troubled father responded.

Because,’ Lori said, ‘It’s just too scary to be 18. The world has really gone mad.’”

She captures the mood of many. How am I to respond? What does the Christian faith have to offer? What is the new thing God is doing in our lives?

That is the driving question this morning: What new thing is God doing in our lives, and I want to suggest three things that I believe God is doing in my life and in yours.

First, God’s character is proven. Second, God assures us of triumphant living. Third, God walks with us into tomorrow’s unknown. Let’s take them in that order.

First, God’s character is proven. This is no small thing and it has not been an automatic given. Look at the character of God in the Old Testament. It is a jumbled mess of contradictions. God wants the Israelites to destroy every man, woman and child they conquer because they perceived this to a directive from God. (Deuteronomy 2:33-34)1 God tells God’s people after they have suffered humiliating defeat, that God’s wrath has been satiated, that they have paid double for all their sins (Isaiah 40:2)2 and in Hosea 11:93 we hear from the lips of God that God is the Holy One in our midst and will not come to destroy. So what is it? Is God a vengeful God visiting suffering on the children and the children’s children? Or is God’s love so vast, so forgiving that Paul got it right when in Romans 8:38-39 he states:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Oh, I know the character of God. It is sealed in Jesus and in the cross Christ bore. You cannot square a God of vengeance with the God of Golgotha. There, on a gibbet of shame hung the Second Person of the Trinity bearing the burden of God’s own holy judgment. So do not talk to me of a vengeful God, of a God who is for some and against others. Do not suggest as Jerry Falwell once did, that God does not hear the prayers of Jews, or that those who are unlike me and mine are outside of the family of God. If it be arrogant to say it, then let us be arrogant to the end; God’s love knows no limit be it race, religion or national origin. Did Paul get it right? He did, and so I say it again, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing! That, my friends, is the character of God and before we all nod in approval know that the abused and the abuser are both loved by the same God, that the murdered and the murderer, the Klansmen and the civil rights advocate, the illegal alien and the native born, all are loved by the God who brought the world into being. Who can separate us from the love of God? Nothing on earth or in Hell. “For God so loved the world…. It is this God whose Holy character is made known in Christ and it is this God that we have pledged to seek and to serve forever. This is the first new thing God is doing in this world that 18 year-old Lori proclaimed mad.

Second, God’s new thing is the assurance that our lives will be triumphant. If we are right about the character of God, then Satan has been laid low. Our triumph is assured as long as we hold fast to Christ. He is the One who defeated death. He is the One who staid the course knowing that God was mightier than all the minions of Hell. His triumph is our triumph if we will but trust in his way.

Most us remember the speech Dr. King gave on the night of April 3, 1968. The next day he would be shot by an assassin’s bullet and killed. But that night, this is what he said.

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

That, my friends, was a life lived in triumph.

It is given to each of us if we will but remember the promise sealed in Christ’s rising from the dead. There is nothing that can ultimately thwart the will of God. He who overcame death shows us the way. Let us then live in the confidence captured by this video:

You’re an Overcomer

Third, God walks with us into our unknown tomorrows. You do not walk alone. The God who brought the world into being, who breathed life into lifeless dust, we set the stars in the heavens and set life in motion, is not a detached observer – a clock maker who set the hands of time ticking and then is done. The absurdity of the Christian faith is that God cares about me, you, each of us. God is not in God’s heaven and all’s well with the world. God is here. Now. As present as the air we breath. God’s hand guides you. God’s Spirit sustains you. And God knows you personally. You are not dust driven by the wind. Your name is on God’s lips.

A census taker came to a woman’s door, knocked and inquired how many people lived in her home. “Well,” she said, “there’s John and Jane, Peter and Barbara…” “No, no,” the census-taker broke in. “I don’t want their names, just numbers.” “They ain’t got numbers,” the woman replied. “They all got names!”

You ain’t a number. You are held in God’s hands.

Look, then, at the purpose God has given to each of us. It will be lived out in countless ways, but the overall purpose remains the same. We are to give glory to God, not in words alone, but in the lives we lead as friends, children, mothers, fathers, citizens of the world. You and I have sworn to follow in the way of Christ. God’s new thing is that God journeys with us.

Rest now, my friends, knowing God’s character has been made real in Christ. Rest in a life lived in triumph, and with the One who walks with each of us. Amen.

1And the Lord our God delivered him over to us; and we defeated him with his sons and all his people. So we captured all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor.

2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

3I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

iRevelation 21:1-6

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.