The Message, May 15, "A New Thing"

The Message, May 15, "A New Thing"

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
May 17, 2022


“A New Thing”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Revelation 21:1-6

            How does it make you feel when you think of a new thing?

            I suppose that it depends upon what the ‘new thing’ is. Is it a new thing … a new television, a new phone, a new car, a new coffee maker? We get excited about new things. No matter our age, when we get something new that excited little child on Christmas morning emerges.

            But … what if the new thing is a slightly bigger thing … perhaps a new experience?

            That can be a mixed bag of feelings. We are excited by the new but may also experience some anxiety. Beginning a new career, buying your first home, moving to a new community … or a new part of the country … are all big new things. We get excited about the new opportunity, but also worry … “Will I be successful? Will I like the new job? The new people?”

            Or, what if the new thing is about BEING something new? Getting married? Having a child? “Will we be happy? Will I be a good spouse? A good parent?”

            But … what if the new thing is even bigger than that? What do we think of, how do we feel when we consider a whole new world?

            Not the song from the Disney movie … (Aladdin) … but a new heaven and a new earth. That is what John is contemplating as he wrote our scripture passage for this morning … a whole new world!

            The reality is that this passage likely does not speak to you. The Book of Revelation is scary and confusing. It is filled with strange visions and a glimpse at a very distant future. In previous churches, the Bible study groups did NOT want to study this book.

            But, as foreign as it may sound to our ears, and our sensibilities, it did speak to the first century audience. The Greeks appreciated what seemed to be Plato’s view of the universe. Perfect “forms” of everything resided in the heavens, and the flawed and imperfect reflections dwelled here on earth. The descent of the new Jerusalem would fit right into that cosmology.

            However, this dream truly spoke to John’s Jewish audience. They never lost their faith in God. Even when Jerusalem was in ruins, they believed that God would restore it. They believed that their holy city would be rebuilt with gold and jewels, a shining city on a hill!

            This vision drew from the ancient prophets. They remembered the words of Isaiah:

“See, I will create
    new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
    nor will they come to mind.” (Isaiah 65:17)

            The idea that the ‘sea was no more’ was a wonderful promise. The “sea” was the place where evil and demons dwelled. The “sea” was a place of terror and death. We have a very different relationship with the sea. We breathe deep and find strength there. The ancient Hebrews knew only horror and fear in the depths of the sea.

            And even more, the Spirit of God, the Glory of God, would dwell among the people fully and forever. There would no longer be the need for the Temple, for God would be ever-present everywhere. The Glory of God, the shekinah would not come and go sporadically as a cloud. Instead, heaven and earth would be joined … connected … and God would dwell on earth as well as in heaven.

            All their pain, all their sadness, all of their fear will be wiped away. The people, God’s People would live in ever-lasting peace and joy!

            Of course, the fledgling Christian community knew well the promises of Jesus. They knew that the world order would be reversed. They knew that the meek would inherit the earth, that those who mourn would be comforted, and those who hunger for righteousness will be filled.

            This is not a vision to be feared, it is a vision to be embraced. This is a reason to rejoice! God will make all things new!

            Some folks read the phrase incorrectly. They read it as: “God will make all new things.” God will not wipe everything away and replace it with something new. No … God will make everything new. God will take this earth … yes, THIS earth … and make it new.

            Now we may think, “How can God do that?” Or, “Why has God not already done that?”

            When we look at the world around us, what do we see? What thoughts come to mind?

            What a mess! What a sad and troubled world. We see ugliness and meanness. We see violence and warfare. We see greed and selfishness. We hear cries. Our hearts may break. We may feel lost or hopeless.

            Yes … we see beauty. How can we not? We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. We see and experience kindness and compassion. We see the power of connection and community.

            But is it enough to overcome the other? We know that we do not have to go far, or do much, to reveal the ugly. Just turn on the evening news. Go out on the front lawn of the church and hold up a sign that supports trans kids, or women’s rights, or black lives and see how long it takes before someone hurls ugly at you.

            This vision in Revelation is more than just a hope for the future. It is more than some far off dream. It is a vision for now. It is a call that desires a response.

             When I read this passage and consider what it means to me in our world today, my dreams and visions are called forth. Whenever I begin a new ministry with a new church my head is full of dreams.

            I dream of the day when the church is the center of activity and ministry in our lives and in the community. I dream of a day when things are happening at the church all the time … every day; when people drive by and wonder, “What is happening at First Parish today?!” I dream of that day when you all have to order special calendars with extra-large blocks so that you can keep track of everything happening here.

            I dream of setting up a banquet table that runs the entire length of Main Street with thousands of chairs around it. I dream of people from all over the community gathering around that table and we know everyone’s names because we spend so much time in community with one another.

            I dream of a day when people do not have to knock on our door asking for assistance for food, or fuel, or rent because the community does such a good job of caring for everyone.

            I dream of the day when we do not need to march or protest at the capital or the statehouse, or hold signs on our front lawn, because people’s rights are not being deprived or stripped away for political gain.

            I dream of the day when we sit on the front lawn and wave to our neighbors as they drive by … and better yet … invite them to stop and pull up a chair.

            Now, you may think that this sounds like a mythical fantasy land. You may think that this is an unrealistic, pollyannish view of the world. And to be sure, this is a dream … a fantasy. But I see it as our call, our opportunity, to share in God’s dream, God’s vision for the world.

            This passage is the culmination of the love story that began in Genesis. God’s love called the world into existence. God’s Love became flesh and lived among us to show us the Way of love, because love practiced, love lived, love shared will result in a new heaven and a new earth.

            I believe that this is our calling as a church, as members of God’s family, as God’s beloved children one and all. We are called to love. We gather here for worship as we are today. We are fed and nurtured, and hopefully inspired here. We learn and grow here. But then what? After the bells ring, and the choirs sing, and after the pastor says his or her thing … what then?

            We love. We open our hearts. We expand our vision, our compassion and our care. And in doing so, our arms open wide, and our hands and fingers extend in welcome. Our feet get into the act. The move, they step out ... out of the pew, out of the church, out of their comfort zones.

            We love. Our hearts connect with other hearts. Our hearts push us, and pull us, and lead us. Our hearts seek God’s heart, they seek God’s vision, they seek peace and harmony.

            We love. Our call to love calls us to act. We are not simply spectators watching and waiting to see what God will do with the world. WE are the doers. We are what God is doing with the world.

            The Kingdom of God is not some divine customer service line upon which we sit listening to music, waiting for hours … days … weeks … or years. We do not call up waiting to complain that God has not done enough, fast enough or soon enough.

            WE love. We wipe away every tear. We take away the fear of the deep. We help to usher in a new earth.

            The NEW thing is actually an age-old thing … the original thing that God intended for our world. All things begin and end with God. God is Alpha and Omega. God will make all things new. God will make us new. And with us, God will create a new earth.

            So, the question for us to consider is this: if you could do one new thing to change the world, to work toward God’s vision, what would that new thing be?

            May it be so. Amen.


Congregational Church