March 17, 2015
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. (The Book of Revelation 21:1)
The Book of Revelation is replete with strange and weird symbols: a lamb having seven horns and seven eyes, horsemen, golden seals and trumpets, a seven–headed leopard-like beast, angels, trumpets, a whore and a bride, just to name a few. Why on earth would I conclude my theological arch for Plymouth with this apocalyptic book?
Apocalyptic literature deals with “end times.” In this book, the end time is not about escapism; it is not about the faithful being snatched up and rescued from earth to paradise/heaven. Here, God declares his commitment to earth and to this life as the location for salvation.
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.
The bride here is more than the church; it represents the whole renewed world where, with great tenderness, God wipes away people’s tears.
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.”
John’s point is not that the whole cosmos will be annihilated. The “first earth” that passes away represents the earth and humanity held captive by domination and sin.
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” This new creation is already unfolding. We are invited to enter into this “New Jerusalem” as its citizens and to inherit and embrace it blessings. The New Jerusalem is a profoundly urban vision that should renew and inform our vision for urban ministry here at Plymouth. This holy city does not exist in solitude and unto itself. God promises the water of life “without price” for everyone. In our time of increasing economic disparity and ecological crisis, how might this image inform our identity and practice to the city of Seattle?
Reflection: How will you and Plymouth discern what is ephemeral (passing away) from what is lasting? –Brigitta Remole