Because of the actions of few of our soldiers, now in the Islamic world, it gives validity to al-Qaeda’s hateful propaganda that West is the enemy of Islam. We now face a desperate political problem how to create a good will and win friends to support our efforts to bring democracy and peace in the Middle East region. News from Israel over this weekend has not been good too. Hamas insurgents in Gaza city killed sixteen Israeli soldiers. 21 Palestinians have been shot and dozens of them were wounded as a result of Israeli attacks in retaliation. More Christian schools and homes in the diocese of Renk in Sudan have been demolished by the Islamic government. What happens in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan or Israel today affects the lives, the economy and geo politics of the whole world. We cannot stay too distant in isolation from each other. Our lives are interconnected from Northern hemisphere to Southern Cone.
We are the dwellers of the global village in the 21st century as the song goes “We are the world.” Realizing this reality, the words of Jesus from the appointed Gospel of John reading and the book of Revelation is hopeful message for us to hear this morning. These reading are packed with good news. Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). Then, the question arises for us that how does the message of these sacred readings implies in our lives.
You may notice that we do not preach too often on Revelation, which is the last book of the New Testament. Some Christians are obsessed with it and others go the opposite extreme of neglect. In our own generation self styled prophets like Hal Lindsey in his popular book the Late Great Planet Earth (1970) interpreted the message of Revelation along with the Old Testament book of Daniel as a prophesy identifying the ten horns of the beast implying to the ten members-states of the European Union. Now the European Union is far more than ten states. Hal Lindsey was also proved mistaken in predicting in his book Countdown to Armageddon that the year 1980 could well be the climax of history. Several other writers have written novels based on apocalyptic literature and have turned this into a billion dollar industry each year.
The book of Revelation is full of symbolism and many would ask why John the writer of this book made it so hard for us to understand. John Stott gives us two explanations. To begin with, the writer is handling transcendent truths which could not be expressed in straightforward prose. Secondly, it would be not only impossible but imprudent of him to do so. John is writing about the refusal of Christians to worship the Emperor and about the overthrow of the Empire, which would have been regarded by the authorities as seditious. Further, the symbols in the Revelation are to be understood, not visualized. If we were to attempt to visualize them, the result would often be grotesque. For example, God’s redeemed people are said to be wearing robes which have been “made…white in the blood of the Lamb” Rev. 7:14). Now I confess that I have never tried to launder dirty linen in lamb’s blood, but the concept is rather revolting, and the consequence would not be to make it white. The interpretation is beautiful, however, namely that the only righteousness which qualifies us to stand in God’s presence is due to the atoning death of Jesus Christ, in whom we have put our trust.
The book of Revelation celebrates Easter, the victory of God over evil, death and darkness. Its first chapter begins with the vision of the resurrected and eternal Christ who is the First and the Last, and the Living One. Now in chapter 21 it celebrates the new beginning as believers in the risen Christ are ushered to new heaven and new earth to which new Jerusalem descends. Here is a new reality in which the dwellers of new Jerusalem, the city of God, are called to live. “The old order of things had passed away” (Rev. 21:4) and from His throne God declares, “I am making everything new” (Rev. 21:v.5).
The great visionary, John saw the new Jerusalem, a scene more graphic than any artist can imagine or an architect can design. In the earlier chapters in the book of Revelation, the city of Babylon, was the city of sin, as it included such things as painful sores, polluted waters, blood flowing in the rivers, scorching heat, dark ignorance, terrorism and violence. This sounds familiar as it is very similar what I hear and read in our local, national and international news media. In the new Jerusalem, John the Seer in the backdrop of all the accumulated human misery is given the glimpse of heaven of the perfection and grandeur of the new Jerusalem.
This is exactly God wants us to realize what can happen to us as Easter people. You and I know that we are called to be in this world but not to set our hearts in this world. Our faith is always set in the context of the terrible realities that are happening now, all around us. We should not get stuck looking only down at the mess, but we are also to look up on the face of the Christ. He is our hope and our salvation, the lamp, the Life, the Truth, the Way to live and to shine as the light of God. So we may give hope even in the face of despair. That is why we proclaim and shout from the mountain top that “Alleluia, Jesus Christ is risen, He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
The City of God, the new Jerusalem, is filled with the glory of God (Rev.21:11). The old Temple in Jerusalem was always filled with the presence and glory of God. Now the old temple is gone and “its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb (Rev.21:22). Their presence fills the city. There is no need for a special building in which to house them. We are now the new Israel, the new Jerusalem, the temple of God where God’s glory, presence and power dwells. God fills his church, the new city of God, with His light and in Him there is no darkness at all.
The new city is a place for the healing of the nations. I have never felt more charged up about the future. I mentioned at the beginning of my sermon that it is all bad news. But now I know because of the resurrection and new hope given to the Easter community, God is raising people like us to be filled with a message of hope and peace to work as an agents of reconciliation in our divided, war torn and worn out world. It is not with our might, wisdom and power but Jesus promised to us “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” With this gift of the peace, salaam and shalom of Christ as dwellers of the new Jerusalem, we proclaim Gospel as the medicine for the healing of the wounded humanity to all corners of the world.
Think for a moment, how would the world look if all Christians—in Australia, Asia, Europe, Africa, North and South America—were to commit themselves without reservation to peace? How would the world look if all Christians—young, middle-aged, or old—were to say loudly and clearly in words and deeds: “We are for peace?” (Henri Nouwen)