Devotion: Towards a New City
Reading: Revelation 21
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."
God is making all things new. I have to admit, it's very hard for me to remember this on a day-to-day basis. I don't see a lot of newness.
On the television, I see the twisted faces of an unredeemed legacy of racism, misogyny, and hatred churned up, cheering, and violently responding to the vitriol spewed by a certain political candidate.
On the internet, I see Christians quietly spreading Islamaphobic memes and stories, asking other Christians if some salacious rumor about Muslims is true, instead of seeking answers through relationships with actual Muslim human beings.
In my neighborhood, I see destitute people seeking refuge in the shaky hulk of a centuries-old home. They are the victims of generations of poverty and of public policies that ensure the rich get richer and the poor die chasing a capitalist nightmare.
In my home, I see myself repeating the same patterns of isolation, perfectionism, and judgment that have damaged my relationship with God and others for decades.
But despite my myopia, God is making all things new. God is reconciling the whole world back to God's self. God is taking the whole of my sin, the whole of the world's sin, and nailing it to the cross.
This is a message repeated over and over in the Scriptures: All have died, all will be made new in Christ.
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
Almost every day, I want to throw up my hands, give up. I want to move out of this hard city I live in and escape to a mountain, where I can bury myself in books and surround myself with the sounds of clean running water, birds, and the wind moving through the trees. I want to take my little boy away from this street I live on where someone else's little boy was shot to death earlier this month. I don't see God working, so I'll take matters into my own barely capable hands.
God's nailing that sin to the cross, too.
God is making all things new. God is using that insane, hateful man giving cover to folks who want to put their bigotry on display. God is using those of us who stand up and say "No more hate!" And God is using those of us working for a world "on earth, as it is in heaven."
The healing, reconciling power of God is at work in the world. I saw it this morning when I was reminded of how this lone anti-Islamic protester was met with love and hospitality, and her face was transformed. I saw it in the tears of a Syrian refugee family reunited with their lost cat after many weeks and thousands of miles, thanks to the efforts of dozens of big-hearted humans. And I hear it in the lyrics of this song, written by a man devastated by personal loss, as he remembers that Christ sees him and knows him and loves him.
Let us pray:
Creator God, we ask you to show us your newness. Transform our minds so that we can see opportunities for reconciliation and transformation. We confess that we have been quick to judge, quick to set ourselves apart or over. Help us to pray both for those who are oppressed and for the oppressors. Show us who we have "othered," God, and soften our hearts toward them, so that we can take part in your work of transformative newness. Help us to become builders of a new city, God. We ask these things in Jesus' name. Amen.