Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year 2006

Prayer, from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

God of all Creation, may we see You in every season, in every purpose under heaven; as we observe the many births, deaths, plantings and harvests in each of our lives, may we be aware of Your Presence alongside us and in our communities. God, may we be there for each other in our grieving and in our joy. Lead us in Your dance of new life, in the name of our Crucified, Risen and Ascended Lord, Jesus Christ, Amen!
Revelation 21:1-6

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the dwelling-place of God is with humanity; He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."

6 And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to anyone who thirsts."


New Year, 2006

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, and I heard a voice from heaven—God's dwelling-place is with creation; God lives with us, and among us. God is here with us! New heaven, new earth—that sounds like another creation all over again, like the death of the old and a resurrection, the birth of the new—it sounds exactly like Good Friday followed by Easter Sunday!

Throughout history, the God of Life passionately has loved and provided for the earth, showing evidence of His constantly abiding with humanity and with all creation. We can trace stories of salvation throughout the Hebrew bible, and when we reach the New Testament, we meet God's ultimate demonstration of His love and care for creation—we meet Jesus of Nazareth, whose birth, life, death and resurrection makes ultimate newness possible. The many centuries-long story of God and the people of God throughout the Bible's narrative and - afterwards, right up to this day and this year, 2006 - tells us and shows us newness always is possible, in every circumstance. In Jesus Christ, the Word of Life become flesh, even the human impossibility of brand-new resurrected life out of the irrevocable conclusiveness of death becomes possible!

In the passage we heard from the New Testament book of Revelation, John the Revelator says, Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." That One reigning from the throne of forgiving, redeeming, merciful grace is Jesus Christ, and on the Friday called "Good" his throne was the Calvary cross. By Jesus' obedience, and by God's raising Christ Jesus from death on Easter dawn, the entire world would experience new hopes, new lives and a new creation! In plain English, the world would know life sprung anew from the ashes and ruins of death; the world and everyone in it would experience forgiveness of their sins, transgressions and other behaviors that had torn the fabric of their lives and relationships and that they so deeply regretted; we even would know the end of our guilt and shame.

In God's world, this world in which we live, not only is this a brand-new year, 2006—because of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, every month and day, every week and every moment means a new beginning. Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. ...then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem; then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."

Jesus Christ promises to make everything new and to give water from the fountain of the river of life, the river of new birth, to all who thirst—and that means us! I'm sure that just like me and like everyone, each of you has more experience than you'd care to remember of thirsting for community, for friendship and acceptance, being thirsty for meaningful work or maybe for almost any employment whatsoever, and sometimes yearning simply for ordinary, everyday food and drink—finding the feast of both food and companionship right here at this church indeed does quench a thirst. Christ Jesus also calls himself the alpha and the omega, the source and the destination. Each of us originates, finds our beginning in Jesus Christ, the Word of Life, and then we journey through our days and years with Jesus Christ, with whom we have our ultimate home and destiny.

Just seven days ago, the church and the world celebrated Christmas, the birth of the infant Jesus at the darkest time of the year. A handful of days after the primeval Festival of the Unvanquished Sun, this world and the entire cosmos met the undefeated source of life and light face-to-face in the vulnerability of the Baby in the Bethlehem manger. The media and stores no longer are playing many Christmas songs, but most likely you've heard the song by Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry:
Mary, Did You Know?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered will soon deliver you?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little boy you've kissed the face of God?

Mary, did you know?
The blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the Lamb?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I AM?
The blind will see, the lame will leap and storms will cease; the dead will live again, because this baby boy-child is the great I AM—Jesus Christ, the Word of Life incarnate that created us, redeems us, and continues sanctifying us, making us holy to stand before the Throne of Grace!

Mary's baby boy, Jesus, now become the Christ, still rules the nations, still is Lord of all creation and is Lord of our lives, as well—Christ Jesus is the Word of Resurrection, God's ultimate Word of Life! Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, and I heard a voice from heaven—God's dwelling-place is with creation. New heaven, new earth—another creation all over again, the death of the old and resurrected birth of the new—Good Friday followed by Easter Sunday! New beginnings, even the obliteration of our sin, shame and guilt—Easter dawn, every moment of every day!

Let the River Run | Come, the New Jerusalem
[Carly Simon, from Working Girl, 1988]

God of all creation, we're coming to the edge, running on the water, coming through the fog, your sons and daughters. Let the river run, let all the dreamers wake the nation. Come, New Heavens and come, New Earth—come, the New Jerusalem!

Blessed New Year and a Blessed new life—to God alone be Glory! Amen!

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