When everything seems hopeless, keep hoping.
When it seems so bad that it could never be worse, and never get better, remember that God will still bring good.
When it is so bad that the only hope for the world is for it to be rebuiltâ€”made againâ€”then God will create a new heaven and a new earth, and you will not be forgotten.
That is the basic message of The Book of Revelation.
The best of all creation that we could ever imagine, the very dwelling place of God, will come down out of heaven and God will be with us. There will be no need of sun or moon, the love of God will light the place up; the nations will flock to it, and it will be safe. Nothing will be there that is not right with God.
The gates will be never shut during the dayâ€”do you understand this!? There will be no need of locks; there will be no war, no robbing, no injustice; no fear. This will be the place of peace. There will not even be night. This will be the place of Good, where we can look upon the face of God.
We will be made holy. We know that to look upon the face of God once meant we would dieâ€”we were so unworthy; so different from God. Now we will look upon the very face of God; we will be clean and holy; God's name will be written upon our foreheads.
This is poetry, of course. We do not know what will happen in the future; we can't. But the poetry echoes in our hearts, doesn't it? Â Because we've all been close to feeling like life couldn't be worse, and then it has become worse.
And it echoes in our hearts because we know that for many people, life is unbelievably bad; we do not know how they can bear the pain in which they live. We know that even in a "good" country like Australia there are hundreds of innocent children held in detention; children who are being scarred for life [See here]. I remember asking Mary, here, during a sermon, how long she had been in a refugee camp before making it to Australia. I thought five or six years; that would be bad! She said 17 years!
And most of us live a life a little bit like the summer I spent working on my Uncle's farm in NSW....
There was the constant rumble of a long freight train just beyond the horizon. I kept hearing it, day after day. Except there were no trains; it was thunder grumbling and crawling around the country for weeks before the vicious storms of summer finally broke out. Everyone was slightly on edge; you never knew whether bushfire, tornado, lightning, or flood would plummet out of the sky. In other times and places, you never know when the army, or the terrorists, or a drunken husband will descend upon you.
We live wondering when the sky will fall, or when that slow train coming will finally roll on over us.
We'd like to think we could slowly make the world a better place. The Christian tradition has been pretty much united in its conviction that, yes, we can, but in the end, the sky will need to fall. God will need to act with a decisiveness way beyond anything we can do. It's begun, indeed. Jesus has lived and died and been raised again. Somewhere in that, things have begun to move.
So what's our part? Â What are we meant to be doing until the sky falls?
Listen to a story from Acts, one more day living under God's sky.
13On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there.Â 14A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.Â 15When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, â€˜If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.â€™ And she prevailed upon us.
A place of prayer outside the city suggests that there were not even enough people at Thyatira to have a synagogue; that only took ten men. Yet these few people gathered and prayed. We only know one of them; a woman called Lydia, who listened and was baptised. She immediately offered Paul and his companions a place to stay.
That's all we know; and it's enough. You see, that act of faith and hospitality has meant her name is written in the book of life! Nothing else matters. And because she looked after these people, the mission went on. The good news spread, right down to you and me. Not the good news of things to believe in, but the good news of simple love and care and healing each other that comes as we seek to live like Jesus did.
In that NSW summer, although I kept being discomforted by the roaming storms on the horizon, my cousins, watchfulâ€”yes, were somehow at ease. They loved the country in which they lived. They were at home. Even though the sky might fall, and it did sometimes, this was their place.
Living like Jesus did, makes this planet our home, our place. Even though armies and evil may be so bad that we wish the sky would fall upon us, life will become home. Life will have a richness and meaning far beyond anything in the Harvey Norman catalogue. The propaganda and fear mongering of politicians will slough off us. We will be free of it. We will be people of God, safe until the sky falls... and then... Home at the last.
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