The 5th Sunday of Easter (May 15, 2022)
Do you ever find yourself musing that things just don’t seem right these days? Everything is topsy-turvy… out of whack? You are not alone. To coin a phrase, the whole world seems upside- down! What was once considered abnormal behavior is now the new normal. Wrong is now right and right is now wrong. The unacceptable is now acceptable and what was once acceptable is now considered totally unacceptable. What has from the beginning of human existence always been considered a vice is now being celebrated as virtue.
Before our eyes the very moral fabric of our society is being cut apart at the seams by the unhinged, pervasive, immoral shears of our culture: political correctness… wokism… critical race theory… society’s weak resignation to evil…and the weakness, lethargy, and lack of integrity of governmental and, sad to say, often our churchly leaders. The peace of our society is being demolished by the orchestrated efforts on behalf of some to divide us along racial, political, or even gender lines. The very foundation of our republic; the U.S. Constitution and its accompanying Bill of Rights, are being systematically chiseled away by socialist and left-leaning judicial activism and hedonistic agendas. All the while our citizenry is distracted by its obsession with materialism and economic prosperity.
On top of all this, many under the canopy of the Christian Church are contributing to this breakdown of all that is good and right by sacrificing the love of Christ and His truth on the altar of a false kind of ecumenism. They are prizing outward unity above doctrinal purity. How can we save our world with the truth if we are allowing that truth to slip through our fingers?
Today, we join our hearts in earnestly praying for relief and renewal. We began our service praying in the collect, “O God, … grant that we may love what You have commanded and desire what You promise, that our hearts may be fixed where true joys are found.” We long to be set free from the injustices, inequities, and total unrighteousness of our culture and world.
For this to happen, however, would require more than just a reformation. It would require a true transformation from the bottom up, or even from the top down. Is that even possible in this world full of sinful human beings? Could it be that our true joy, our real answer, our hope, our salvation from this upside down world is actually to be found somewhere else?
Our text tells us where true joys are to be found. The Lord showed to John a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, for he adds, “…the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” Pictured is the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God having been made new and ready, fully adorned like a bride all gussied up for her husband. John hears from God’s lips these words: “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Notice that the Lord does not say that He makes “new things,” as if all the old things, the previous heaven and earth, are simply cast aside and in their place He makes a totally different heavens and earth. Instead, the Lord says He “makes all things new.” God never discards aside anything He has made. God is perfect. There was nothing wrong with the heavens and earth that He made. When He created everything, the LORD God Himself proclaimed it “very good.” It was the rebellion of man that spoiled God’s good work. It was the wicked cravings of the first man and the first woman that put the heavens and the earth under the curse and subjected them to futility, misery and even death. Accordingly, God says He is making all these things new again.
You and I can only imagine the perfect order, the magnificent beauty, the heavenly serenity that creation was as God created it in the beginning… before it was assaulted by mankind’s rejection of God and evil longing to be god themselves. Even our dreams can not do justice or capture the perfectness of creation’s original essence.
But the wonderful news is that we do not have to dream about what was or try to imagine what Adam and Eve enjoyed, even if it was only for a short moment. We hear our Creator God tell us that He is making all things new…that is; refurbished, purged of all evil influence and damage. He is removing the curse upon it and making all things even better than they were in the beginning if that is possible.
In fact this new heavens and new earth are so renewed they are beyond our words to describe or our minds to comprehend. For you see, we are too accustomed to seeing this distorted and marred heavens and earth. Accordingly, the Lord describes the new heavens and earth by telling us what won’t be there. He says, “…death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
No one has to describe for you what these former things, or literally, “first things,” are and are like. You live them every day. It’s that melancholy mood you have been in all day because your day started off with harsh words with your spouse or your neighbor. Those first things include that deep wound you still carry around in your heart ever since you buried your loved one last week or last month. It’s that heaviness of guilt that plagues your conscience as a result of those thoughts, or desires, or actions that you know are so offensive to God and even your neighbor. It’s that loneliness, and perhaps even feeling of abandonment, you carry with you every moment of every day. It’s that sinking feeling in your heart that your perfect world is being turned entirely upside down by your own sins, as well as those of others.
But here is the wonderful good news! These things… and all manner of other consequences of sin in this world… are not to be found in the reality of the heavens and earth the Lord makes new; and makes new for you!
How has God made all things new for you so that none of these first things will be a part of your reality… your existence… for all of eternity? You might say that He does it as He did in the beginning; that is, He does so by His Word… His Word made flesh that is!
In this vision there are two times the Lord calls for John’s special attention. One is when He says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” The other is also a call to Behold! “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes…”
What does it take for God to “dwell” or more literally, “tabernacle” with men?
Ever since mankind’s rejection of God and His Word, our sin and guilt have made a wall of separation between us and God. The sweet fellowship enjoyed between the Creator and the progenitors of our race ended the moment they ate the forbidden fruit. We have been cowering in fear from God’s presence ever since. And rightly so. Sin has brought us all under the righteous wrath of God.
God had to break down that barrier by becoming broken Himself. In order to do that, The One, who spoke this heaven and earth into existence to begin with… the Eternal Word Himself, had to take on frail flesh Himself and die the sinner’s death. Jesus does not remove these things, but He makes them His own. He makes our tears His tears, our crying His crying, our mourning His mourning, our pain His pain, and our death His death. Crushed and killed by the very things that crush us, he redeems us from them, making everything fresh, new and clean again.
By His death in our flesh… in our place under the wrath of God… the barrier between man and God is torn down. By raising our flesh from the dead, Jesus seals the certainty of our resurrection from the dead. He makes death a portal to life with God in His presence. The “Old things”; that is, the consequences of sin, are replaced with redemption’s “New Things;” that is, forgiveness of sins, peace with God, godly righteousness. Paradise lost is now Heaven found. Instead of being clothed with animal skins, our nakedness… our ungodliness… is clothed by God in the righteousness and holiness of Christ. By His blood we are truly adorned as a beautiful bride for our eternal Husband.
Even now, in the midst of the old things of our present existence, the One who has come to dwell among us in our flesh, is making all things new to you.
In the waters of Holy Baptism, He is present to give you new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to create a new heart of faith within you, to make you clean in the forgiveness of your sins, to drown the old Adam in you and to bring forth in you daily that new man who turns away from all the old ways of disobedience and seeks to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
The Word made flesh is present in The Word of the Gospel preached and taught to you and the Holy Absolution pronounced to you to speak you righteous and holy in His sight.
The crucified and risen Maker of all things new, is present in the Sacrament of the Altar with His precious body and blood to renew you in the New Testament of His blood with forgiveness of your sins and to feed you with the food of immortality, giving you a foretaste of the eternal banquet to come in His holy presence.
The best news is that this making of all things new is a done deal! The Lord Himself says, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”
The primary purpose of the Book of Revelation with all of its visions and symbolic pictures, which often seem so obscure and foreign to our understanding, is to encourage those of us still living in the old things of this present existence that The making of all things new has been accomplished. It’s a done deal! We heard it already in a different form from Jesus’ own dying lips, “It is finished!” God’s work of making all things new is complete. The victory has been won. What is so wonderfully pictured for us will be our reality.
All that remains for you and me, and all others who rejoice in the Lord’s final appearing, is for all the remnants of these old things to be finally removed so that we can visibly, personally, and in the flesh enjoy the Lord’s physical presence among us. Then truly He will tabernacle over us, giving us to drink from the spring of the water of life at His cost and enabling us to live forever without tears, without pain, without mourning, without death. Then all things truly will be rightly and well ordered!
The words of our victorious Lord: “I am making all things new,” breathes new life into your tired, afflicted, spirit and body. The old things will very soon no longer be a part of your reality. Instead, the already established new order in Jesus’ blood will be the order of your every moment. There is no need, therefore, to pin your hopes for a bright and great future on some political or even churchly leader, as if such persons are your last great white hope. Jesus has already made all things new! He is your hope, your salvation and your eternal joy. Fix your eyes and your heart on Jesus, where true joys are forever found.
This other worldly, secured new order, is what our Confirmands have been brought to rejoice in and given opportunity to boldly confess today! By the grace and power of the Holy Spirit they confess what you confessed at your confirmation: “I intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it!” God bless them and all us who share this hope of newness! Amen!