When the Kingdom of God comes in all its glory, God’s radical WELCOME will truly be lived out and experienced by all because death will be no more. There will be no more mourning, no more suffering, no more pain.
June 6, 2021
Welcome: The New Jerusalem
Revelation 21: 1-7
Pastor Heather McColl
Revelation 21: 1-7 (Common English Version)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the life-giving spring. Those who emerge victorious will inherit these things. I will be their God, and they will be my sons and daughters.
The Word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.
We began this conversation six weeks ago. Over the last few weekly sermons, we have named the need for justice to roll down like waters so that all will be made new. We have recognized the beautiful gift given to all as named and claimed by God, that all are created in the image of God, that all are Beloved Children of God. Over the last few weeks, we have reclaimed the understanding that there is no disconnect between what we do and say as people of faith in worship and how we live out our lives during the rest of our week. We have also embraced the call to become repairers of the breach. As the people of God in this new reality we realize that we cannot recreate something which no longer exists. Rather for us to become repairers of the breach, we are called to open our hearts to where God is moving in and among us, bringing forth new life so that our communities will become livable, will become sustainable once again. Over the last few weeks, as a community of faith, we have invited the waters of justice to renew us, to restore us, to break down the hardened boundaries to which we often cling. Over the last few weeks, as a community of faith, we have invited the waters of justice to sustain us as we have explored how we as Christ’s Representatives here on Earth are called to work together with God to make a better, safer and more hospitable world, that we are called to do this even if this work pulls us from our comfortable zones, even if this work brings more questions than answers, Over the last few weeks, we as a community of faith have begun the difficult, messy work of justice making.
And now, we find ourselves on the banks of the river. The waters of justice have led us here to the promised land. They have led us here to New Jerusalem where we are invited,, where all are invited to experience a welcome like no other, a welcome all where people experience a just world with peace and plenty. At the banks of the river, ready to enter into the promised land, as a community of faith, we are invited to experience Welcome through the radical love of God. Welcome: The New Jerusalem Revelation 21: 1-7
WELCOME….This should have been an easy sermon for me to write. After all, we as a community of faith have lived with WELCOME as our mission for over ten years now. Through our mission of WELCOME, we visioned and have sustained our monthly Free Community dinners. At these free community dinners, all are invited to come to the table, no charge, no expectations, no requirements to join our church. Everyone is simply invited to break bread with our neighbors, to learn their stories, to get to know their neighbors beyond a wave at the post office, to actually see them, to actually interact with them. At these dinners, everyone is invited to come to the table and be embraced as a Beloved Child of God.
Through our mission of WELCOME, we have also shared our physical resources with others, inviting outside groups to use our space. Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, AA, Al-anon, people who rent our commercial kitchen to make items for Farmers’ Markets. It is a well known fact in our community that our space is open and available for all to use.
All of these missions are wonderful, life giving, life transforming. And at the banks of the river, as we make preparations to fully enter this new reality of being church in the 21st century, it would be so easy for us to say…that’s it. After 10 years, we have truly become a welcoming community of faith. After all, we’ve got the t-shirt, the catch phrase, and the beautiful stained glass window in our sanctuary to prove it.
Yet, after spending time in prayer, after spending time with our text, after spending time listening to where the Spirit of God is moving in and among us, I am realizing that these missions are just a beginning, a beginning which barely scratches the surface of what it means for us as Midway Christian Church to be a welcoming community of faith. For us to become the community of WELCOME which God created and calls us to be, we are called to build on this foundation and expand our understanding of what it means to welcome all. We are called “offer the vision of a church that is anything but “business as usual”. We are called to become a community of faith which is committed to being a place of radical welcome inside the walls but also in the way that it witnesses through its mission to the world. We are called to “to affirm our oneness with the whole human family this day and all days.”
For us as Midway Christian Church to be the community of WELCOME which God created and calls us to be, we are called to put aside our privilege and continue to do the hard work of justice making, even if it makes us uncomfortable, even if it is painful, even if we have to name, to own some uncomfortable truths about who we have been and who we continue to be as a predominately white, affluent congregation.
Now let me stop right there and make a confession. As I said earlier, this sermon should have been easy for me to write but I’ll admit I struggled. I kept putting off this moment. I kept avoiding actually putting words on a blank screen. I struggled with this sermon, not because of you, but because of me.
I struggled to write this sermon on WELCOME for the reasons I just listed. I know that the process of becoming a community of radical welcome will be uncomfortable. It will be painful. It will push me in ministry like never before. So I think it is only fair to say that I struggled to write this sermon because I wanted to avoid this moment, for my security, for my comfort, for my bubble of protection.
Yet I know if I do that, if I choose comfort and security over the process of becoming, I know that I would be taking the easy way out. I would not be honoring my call as a minister of the Gospel. My faith, my belief, my story of God at work in this world calls me to look beyond the surface level, to look with the heart and eyes of God, to see where the Spirit of God is moving in and among us and go and do likewise.
And when I do this, I realize that our text for today, our text which tells us of the day when the Kingdom of God is fully realized here on Earth, our text which tells us of the day when God’s Shalom is lived out here on earth, our text which tells us of the day when God comes to fully dwell among God’s people once more, we realize that the welcome author is describing is more than just a mission. It is a way of being. It is a way of living. It is a way of being in relationship with one another. It is a way of justice making not just for a select few but for all of God’s people.
The author tells us that on that day, when the Kingdom of God comes in all its glory, God’s radical WELCOME will truly be lived out and experienced by all because death will be no more. There will be no more mourning, no more suffering, no more pain. The author tells us that on that day when God’s radical WELCOME is truly experienced by one and all, the old ways, the old systems which created chaos and brokenness, all the old ways will pass away and everything will be made new. The author tells us that when the vision of God’s Shalom is fully realized here on Earth, all tears will be wiped away and all things will be made new.
This is the hope. This the vision which guides us. This is what we are call to help bring forth as the people of God…a time when all have a place at the table, when all are seen as Beloved Children of God, when labels and boundaries which separate and divide fall away, and everyone, everyone is gathered together as one…all races, all nations, all people together as one.
This is the vision of WELCOME which the author of Revelation shares with us today as people of faith and yet, when we look at our world, we know that as a culture, as a society, as a community of faith, we are not there yet.
I don’t share this to depress or discourage us. I share this as a way to renew us, to enliven us, to refresh us. Because you see, what we tend to ignore is that the gift which the waters of justice bring and share with us is that they are baptismal waters, waters which invite us to quench our thirst, to ease the dryness of our souls. The waters of justice are baptismal waters, waters which wash away all which separates us from God. The waters of justice are baptismal waters, waters which remind us who we are and whose we are.
The waters of justice become “modes of action, carving even the hardest of rocks and solid earth, to make a way where before there was none. The waters of justice are waters which prepare us, enliven us, strengthen us so that we as the people of God can become the people of WELCOME God created us and calls us to be by breaking down oppressive structures and systems and creating a road to a future marked by equality for all.” (Lisa Davison)
The waters of justice are baptismal waters, washing away the old systems which create chaos and brokenness. The waters of justice are baptismal waters, rolling down to make everything new.
I said at the beginning of this series and I’ll say again, I don’t pretend to have all the answers but what I do know is that becoming is a process. It does not happen overnight. And even though this process of becoming the community of WELCOME which God created and calls us to be, even though this process of becoming is a good thing, it will not be easy.Welcome: The New Jerusalem Revelation 21: 1-7
Yet it is our calling as the people of God to be audacious, to be bold, to take risks, to transform because again, this process of becoming is not about us. It is about the very character of God, the God who loved us since the beginning of time, the God who loved us when no one else would, the God who will alway love us no matter what.
And as we become the community of radical welcome God created and calls us to be, we begin to more fully live out our call to work together with God to create a better, safer, more hospitable, more sustainable world for all of God’s people. May it be so.