Made New

Justin Thornburgh
Emerson Avenue Baptist Church
Revelation 22:1-5
Ellenberger Park
24 August, 2014

Made New

These pictures from the pages of the Revelation of St. John are some of the most beautiful in all of scripture. If anything, John could paint a picture that triggers the divine spark in our imaginations.

These beautiful images are images of hope. Of that which we long for. They are images of a river flowing so freely and unobstructed that it has no rapids. Its current takes the traveler from the throne of God and the Lamb into the city of God. We ride on glass- looking into the river we see not only our own reflections but through the reflected images we see deep into the waters of space and time. We see all that was, all that is, all that is still yet to be. In this waters of life is the story of us – is the story of God’s through us – is the story of God with us.

Stepping into the city we notice something that we had not noticed before. We notice that the river is not flowing to God. Rather the river flows into the city from God. The river flows from God into the streets of the city bathing them in crystalline life. The divine spark touches every element of the city. The streets that were destroyed are made new. The eroding edifices – washed – shine like the stars. The river of live flows down the middle of the street towards a tree.

The roots of the tree are deep in the ground. Being fed by this overflowing river. And the waters of the river rise up the tree, combining their molecules with the molecules of the leaves in divine photosynthesis – and as the pules of life drives through the leaves the tree begins to bear fruit. Fruit that is never ending. Food with out end. No seed time or harvest. But always enough. Here in the middle of the city – the city made new – is the Garden of Eden. Made new.

A world without sin. Without war. Without the brokenness of Babble. And as we dine in divine light, there are no words on our lips other than praise for the one who brought us this far. Praise for the one who has marked us as God’s own. And as the day should draw to night – we discover that there is no need for rest for we are filled. We are in the midst of the giver of life. In deed, we have been made new.

Friends, these words are words of profound hope. The are the picture of the promise that one day – all will be made new. They are what was intended in Eden. And it is easy for us to get embraced by their beauty. It is so wonderful to hear these words. Especially when it seems everything around us in chaos.

Rather than a river of life, we have streets painted in the blood of children. Instead of eating from the tree of life, we don’t know if we are going to have enough to eat. Instead of everlasting light, the dark clouds surround us day and night and light is the elusive taunt of hope.

We hear words like these and we begin to build walls around us, hoping that if we do, we will be safe from all the trouble of the world. If we build the wall high enough, the fortifications strong enough – we will be able to gain access to this eschatological hope. This divine beauty. But what happens is that we being to divorce ourselves from the reality going on around us. We get so focused on Glory that we forget the reality of the cross – and that in the reality of the cross, we are already a part of this final scene.

You see, the message of the cross is one that breaks through our walls and fortifications. The message of the cross is one that rather than divorcing us from the reality of the world around us – draws us into it. In the reality of the cross, all things are made new.

In the reality of the cross, the rock filled rapids have been made smooth by a God who came to stand in the midst of the rapids.

In the reality of the cross, God’s own blood ran down the streets.

In the reality of the cross, a brown man raised his hands and was killed by the state because he refused to say that this is all there is.

In the reality of the cross, God came to live and die with us and in doing so made all things new.

Because in the reality of the cross, death is not the final answer.

On the cross hangs all of our grief, our pain, our humiliation, our sin, our brokenness. There hangs the powers of death and chaos. There hangs hate and hubris. On the cross God is with us. On the cross – the river of live begins to flow from the throne of God making all things new.

Because in the reality of the cross, death is not the final answer.

As the river of life begins to flow, it meanders is way through our mess. It begins to wash away the feelings of hate and hubris, pain and chaos. The river of life flowing from the cross washes the blood from the streets and makes its way into each of us.

Those of us gathered as the church have experienced the glory that is to come, and are not called to hide behind it. To sit wishing for it. But to be bearers of it. We have experienced being made new. We are not new beings. We are the same broken and mixed up people, but we have been made new. Through the reality of the cross.

We have experienced what it means to be told we are loved. To be held when we are hurting. To be carried when we can not stand. We have experienced what it is like to find a community that embraces us for who we are. And it is not ours to hoard.

These beautiful words are not just words of what is to come, but of what is. We are here as witnesses to it. Let us not be afraid anymore. Let us be those who have been made new.

When the streets are dark and bloody, we are to be the river of life helping rebuild community rather than erect walls.

When the dark clouds of depression overwhelm, we are to be divine light sitting in the darkness, present, holding, helping. Silent if we need to be. The divine light will pierce the darkness. We are just its bearers.

When the truth of racism, sexism, homophobia, any of the walls that we are told to build being to lay the mortar at our feet, we are to take them and say not in God’s name. We are to take the bricks of those walls and use to build a gathering place for all God’s children.

We have been touched by the reality of the cross and have been made new. We have seen the holy city. We have been tasted the river of life. We have been made new. Let us go and make all things new with the promise that what will be .. is.

Thanks be to God.


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