First Lesson: Acts 11: 1-18
Responsive Reading: Psalm 148
Second Lesson: Revelation 21: 1-6
Gospel Lesson: John 13: 31-35
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Walter Mitty was the biggest daydreamer in the world. Walter Mitty knew that the truth of real life was often painful, so Mitty spent his time dreaming of a new type of existence. Walter Mitty dreamed of new relationships. He dreamed of less broken relationships. Walter Mitty dreamed for his world to be something that it was not. Whereas the world around Walter Mitty was boring and repetitive, Mitty was able to see the possibility of transformation coming from straight out of his run of the mill life.
The Apostle John in many ways was like Walter Mitty. John’s present life was tough. John was imprisoned on the Greek Isle of Patmos. John was separated from everyone that he loved.
We might often feel like Walter Mitty and the Apostle John weak and powerless. We are often surrounded by forces whose presence we cannot begin to overcome on our own. So we daydream over a different type of existence. My grandma dreams of moving to California. The lonely widow dreams of meeting her Prince Charming. The poor working mother dreams of winning the lottery. I dream of the Vikings winning the Super Bowl. Dreams are what kept Walter Mitty and John going when no one around them believed that actual change was possible.
I came across a great quote from Walt Disney this week that “A dream is a wish that your heart makes.
I was talking to a woman a while back that I’ll call Theresa. Theresa was working in her first job out of grad school. Theresa approached this job with a sense of optimism regarding “What possibly could be done to change the people’s lives around her for the better.” The problem for Theresa is she then started talking to other people who gave her all the reasons “Why her ideas could never happen”. These people had been right before. These people claimed to have more life experience and wisdom. It would be easy for Theresa to give up in the face of their criticisms. But, there is no guarantee that these naysayers will remain right forever. Once we lose hope that things can change regardless of the odds or present circumstances, then the way forward is viewed with nothing but dread and despair.
As bad as John’s situation was as he was exiled in Patmos for his Christian faith. John never lost his sense of hope for how his God will come through for him. Last week, we looked at the importance of John’s vision within the Book of Revelation. This week, we get down to the nuts and bolts of John’s vision.
Before we begin exploring our lesson from Revelation 21, this morning, what if I told you that many of the ways that we think about the Afterlife as Christian people are wrong? How we tend to think in terms of Heaven being above us, Earth in-between, and Hell down below. Widespread beliefs like The Rapture tend to portray God dictating Christians leaving this world behind, before its destruction. What if God’s plans for this world were different? What if a day will come instead when Heaven comes crashing down from the sky. What if the “great hope” of Resurrection isn’t leaving this world behind, but rather a new creation emerging from around us.
Forty days after Jesus’ Resurrection came Jesus’ Ascension into heaven as described in Acts 1. As Jesus exits the Earth into the sky, he leaves the Disciples with two promises. The first promise is A. He is coming back to bring forth the New Jerusalem or the City of God descending from out of the heavens (1:6). B. No one knows the date or the hour as to when this shall be(1:7).
As we look towards our lesson for today, there is an interesting phrase within it “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth, had passed away.”-Revelation 21:1.
What this passage does is speak to the direction of God’s salvation. How God is going to come down to us. God first came down in the person of Jesus Christ. God remains present on this day through his Holy Spirit by coming down again whenever we hear the Gospel promises given in Word, Water, Wine, and Wheat. Jesus will come once again to usher in a “new creation” on the day of Final Resurrection.
One of the more famous stories in the Old Testament that I’ve never preached on is the building of the Tower of Babel. After the Great Flood, everyone in the world was speaking with one voice. People working together might sound like a good thing, but people were going around believing that absolutely no spiritual pursuit even building a tower to Heaven could be out of their reach, so all the people journey together to the land of Shinar to build a city and this tower. The people wanted to make a name for themselves declare their equality with God, so they begin building seeking to reach the sky. God eventually lays eyes upon the city and the tower. God sees the tower as a problem because of all the harm that had been brought forth to the world when the first humans Adam and Eve saw them and God in competition. So God brings the Tower down. God confuses their language and God scatters the people throughout all the Earth.
Now many people may hear this story and think it doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Tower of Babel though has everything to do with how we understand salvation. The thing is that everything about salvation centers around its order. We are incapable of reaching Heaven on our own, so therefore, God promises to come down and reach us instead. This is the great hope of the Christian faith!
Earlier this month, a neighbor of mine from growing up Mary passed away. Mary had been fighting cancer for over a decade. I saw Mary at dinner one Friday night then a few days later she fell in her home and passed soon after that. Mary’s daughter Kelly was one of my babysitters growing up. I couldn’t say a bad word about Mary.
Mary in her obit said the following: “Life is short, too short, (I never want to leave the party!). My parents went to Mary’s funeral at Trinity Lutheran Church where I grew up. Mary wanted a note read where she said that she didn’t know if anything lied ahead for her.
I can’t blame Mary for thinking this way, we think of questions of the Afterlife having to deal with God who resides in the heavens far above us. Let’s admit that many of our critics have a point this can seem quite far-fetched. We might look at our life and see Heaven being a place that we cannot possibly ascend . Heaven for even the grandest of dreamer seems a picture to hard to grasp. Could we actually dwell with the creator of Heaven and Earth?
The picture looks different than either Mary and we can imagine. What if the party that Mary so enjoyed was merely a foretaste of the feast that is to come?
Being a bachelor over the years, I’ve learned that if I don’t cook then, I ultimately don’t eat. So as any cook could tell you the best part about preparing a meal is often the taste-testing to give a sample of what lies ahead. Christ’s first coming and first Resurrection was merely a sampling of the Resurrection that is to come. In the words of the Prophet Ezekiel, we continually look towards the day when the dry bones come out of the ground and start dancing in the streets.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”- John 14:3.
I think as Christian people one of our common mistakes is selling the afterlife short. We imagine it merely being our souls flying around in the clouds. What if I told you that Afterlife was much greater. The Afterlife is not merely a lesser version of our present existence. The Afterlife is rather an inheritance of a world with no pain, suffering, or mourning. The Afterlife is the reception of the great inheritance that God sent his Son to the Cross to bring forth.
I’ll talk to people every day who worry about the future of this nation. I’ll talk to people who worry about the future of God’s people. You maybe cannot imagine that it’s possible that God can come back and turn it all around by ushering in his Kingdom. As John wrote the Book of Revelation, no matter how dark and lonely the night became, John kept on believing God’s plans for him were much greater than even he could imagine.
Let me quote the words of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw on this morning who said:
“You see things as they are and ask, Why?”
“I dream things that never were and ask “Why not?”
Jesus said after the death of his friend Lazarus: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”- John 11:1.
Everyone gathered here today longs for the day of Resurrection. No one wakes up this morning not desiring to see the day where their existence forever changes. We long for the type of change to come into our lives that took place in the life of Mary Magdalene as she encountered the Risen Lord standing outside the tomb. We long for the day when the sea of separation within our lives shall be no more, the day when flowers that are dying come back into the bloom. The day that the sun shines in the sky like never before. We long for the day when a great comfort will come to those who are previously distressed. We look forward to the day when we reunite with those who have gone before us, the day when we shall become inheritors of the great promises that our God gives to us on this day. The greatest of Christian hopes is that a day lies ahead when the sky shall come crashing down.
“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”-1ST Corinthians 15:51-52.
Everything shall change when the sky comes crashing down! A new heaven and a new earth shall emerge. The day when our eyes finally see the long awaited pearly gates and streets paved with gold. On this day, all things from our former way of life shall be made new! Resurrection is coming soon! Amen
 “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was a short-story written by James Thurber in 1939. Mitty’s daydreaming tales were subsequently made into flims in 1947 and 2013.
 Revelation 21:1-6.
 Genesis 11
 Ezekiel 37
 McLarty, Dr.Phillip. “Where There’s Vision, There’s Hope.”. Lectionary.org. 2010. Web. Apr.21.2016.
 Revelation 21:3
 Zingale, Tim. “Heart Prints”. Sermon Central. Apr.2007. Web. Apr.21.2016. Zingale gives really good insight on Revelation 21:4 from the Augsburg Epistles series written by Pastor Robert Borgwardt.
 Revelation 21:21.
 Isaiah 43:19.