The Hope that Empowers … Rev 21:1-6a … 1 Nov 2015

We have the world renowned New World symphony by Antonin Dvorak, written in 1893, during his five year stint in the USA.  Incorporating Negro and Native American music, this symphony is full of the promise, the open spaces, and the richness of the USA or North America.

Indeed, the USA brought a new world to many people from Europe, those oppressed by religion or by socio-economic factors.  Albert Einstein was a prominent example in the previous century – he escaped certain execution by the Nazis.  In the context of the hope and promise of the new world, at Princeton University, Einstein produced his General Theory of Relativity and other discoveries, which have helped to transform science and the modern world.  He was called by Time magazine the (leading) person of the 20th Century.

Despite the ugly reality of colonialization and slavery in the USA, eventually the US constitution and an array of marvelous individuals brought emancipation and civil rights to black Americans, and brought the vote to female Americans.   

Coming out from under the clouds of oppression, it was the promise and hope of the USA that brought what even Russian premier Putin described (in 2015) as a remarkable creativity to the people of the USA.  So U.S.A. music and history shows how hope empowers change and creativity.  Today the world must continue to reach deep to care for refugees, for immigrants, and for every “stranger”.

In Rev 21:1-6a we have the prophecy of the new world, and the Christian hope of the resurrection which has always and will always empower those who follow Christ.  Even as climate change takes place, the promise in this passage of a new heaven and earth empowers the faithful to embrace hope and pray and work towards sustainable living.

This Christian hope is the resurrection prophesied in the Hebrew scripture (the Prophets) in Isaiah 25 and Ezekiel 37.

When Jesus says in Rev 21 “I am the Alpha and Omega” (the first and final letters of the Greek alphabet) he is saying that as God the creation originated in him and it reaches its goal in him.  The creation of each one of us originates in Christ; and in Christ finds its “Omega” — its meaning, goal, purpose and consummation. At the end of the Nicene Creed it says, “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”

We have in Rev 21 and in the Gospel reading (John 11:32-44) the compassion of Jesus Christ.  While the New Testament contains fairly little biographical material about Jesus or others, in this gospel reading Jesus weeps and is deeply moved by grief.  This weeping is a specific case of the compassion God has for us in giving the Word and ultimately in becoming incarnate as the God-man Jesus Christ.  When we grieve or are lonely, God feels grief and loneliness with us.  What we feel, God feels with us.

Loss and grief can be connected with the death of a loved one, but it can be wider –the loss of a cherished place, the loss of a desired employment or promotion, the loss of our health, or the loss of a dream.

Yet as St Paul says in 1 Thess 4:13, “We do not grieve as those without hope”, but our grief presses through into a change of perspective through Christ’s resurrection – which also anticipates our resurrection in and with Christ as we eat his body and drink his blood.  There it is again – that Christian hope empowers change and creativity: and the day is coming in which “God will wipe every tear from our eyes”.  What a wonderful prospect! No more hungry children, no more disease or death, with every person and creature happy in a renewed and restored earth!  What human being could accomplish that?

At first, following the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples were filled with grief and fear.  Then they absorbed the reality of his resurrection.  Empowered by the Spirit, they went out into the world to tell the good news, filled with joy and conviction.  Despite suffering centuries of severe persecution and many executions, they and the martyrs were filled with and strengthened by the Christian hope in Rev 21.

The whole of the Christian calendar is in the Book of Common Prayer page 19 – Google the names, day by day.  (On Nov 3, there is Richard Hooker; and on Nov 7, Willibrord of Utrecht.)  Each week the wonderful stories of over 200 of “a cloud of witnesses” will inspire you to greater heights of joy and creativity.  In your own life you have known people who have inspired you with faith, hope and love.  Think of them now, count them out, and give thanks.

At the start I noted how hope has played a role in the history of creativity in the USA.  So much the more, as the Book of Hebrews (chapters 11 into 12) urges, we are surrounded by a longer history of faith beginning with the creation and Abel.  We are surrounded by a mystical or spiritual union with a cloud of witnesses.  Whatever has occurred to us, let us not indulge grief and dismay too long.  Rather, let us eventually throw off every clinging grief, and throw off every burden.  Let us run with perseverance, joy, and great compassion for our neighbors — run towards the Christian hope of our resurrection and consummation in Jesus Christ.

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