Heavenly Home: Coming Home
“Heavenly Home: Coming Home”
Rev. Amy Morgan
June 2, 2019
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away."
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."
The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.
21 Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes.
22 The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son,
23 so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
24 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.
25 "Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself;
27 and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
28 Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice
29 and will come out-- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
Slow down – breathing in God’s love, breathing out distractions
Imagine darkness. Complete and total. You can’t see your hand in front of your face. In fact, you can’t move your hand, because the darkness is so oppressive and complete it has weight, mass, that presses down on you like gravity.
It is silent as a tomb but warm as a womb. You don’t know if you’re beginning or ending, but you know you’re not moving. And you know you are alone. Profoundly alone.
After a while, the darkness is not terrifying, the silence is not disconcerting, the isolation is not lonely. It all just is. You have no more to-do lists, no more distractions, no more early mornings or late nights, no texts and emails to answer, no decisions to make. You can just be. It’s just you, and now, and you are at peace. In this dark and still place, you have found what is means to simply be.
Suddenly, the stillness is disturbed by a tremor. At least you think so. Did you feel it? Or just imagine it? Now another, stronger. Yes, you’re sure of it this time. And you heard something, too. Stone against stone. And now a beam of light shatters your darkness. It is blinding, but it is as beautiful as the darkness. You feel breath filling your lungs. The beating of your heart sounds in your ears like the rhythmic explosion of fireworks. Your body is as light as air.
You look around as your eyes adjust to the light. The stone cave. Your final resting place is not so final, it seems. Stone grinds against stone again, and the light expands. You sit up, dressed for death, but perhaps fully alive for the first time.
Walking to the entrance, where light is flooding in through the shifted stone, you contemplate your next step. What is out there? Friends and relatives still grieving your death? Do you really want to see their pain? Can you explain away their confusion at seeing you alive?
How much time has passed? Are all those you know and love reduced to dust? Have they been raised as you have? Do you want to enter a world where you don’t know a soul?
Or is this even the same world you left? Perhaps heaven lies beyond the stone. It can’t be hell. The light is too beautiful, and a cool evening breeze is drifting in.
Worse yet, what if the world is exactly as you left it? Bickering politicians, angry neighbors, impossible bosses. War and poverty and oppression. Apathy and greed and meaningless boredom. Perhaps it’s better to stay here, push back the stone, return to the comfortable darkness.
You don’t know how much time passes, as you linger near the entrance, pondering these questions and possibilities. The light grows dim, it seems that night falls, but the light of the moon still shines through. Days pass, perhaps, two or three, as you think, wait, decide.
The light coming in the cave is dim, early morning light as you hear a noise outside. Is it the gardener? No, women’s voices, excited, emotional. After they pass, there is the shuffle of footsteps, dozens of people, from the sound of it. Hoarse voices whispering.
You hear a familiar voice. Someone you love. Someone who died, before you did. They say your name. “Come out,” they tell you. “It’s all right. I’m here. It’s beautiful.
Amazing.” You heed their call, and step out of your tomb, into the morning light. And you see their face, this one you love, whom you thought was lost.
And there is someone else there. Standing there like an ordinary person, but with a presence so great they seem to fill every space. You know this must be God, even though this person fits no physical description of God you’ve ever seen or heard of. Within this one face, you see a thousand faces. The only word you can think of to describe what God looks like is Love.
The world is not as you left it. Everything is new, healthy, whole, perfect. Like a newborn child. Rivers are clean and full of life. The air is pure. The forests are rich and life-giving.
And in the distance, you can see a city. People are streaming toward it, laughing and singing and shouting for joy. Everyone looks just as healthy and whole as everything else you can see.
Then you realize that you are not the same. You are healthy and whole, too. You have experienced the darkness, and you have learned what it is to be. After resurrection, you cannot fear death, your grief is not hopeless when a loved one dies. Your lists and appointments and texts aren’t urgent. You have eternity to get to it all, if it’s worth getting to in the first place.
In this new life, you wear your death and carry it with you like a talisman. Death, in a way, has finally brought you to life.
You look at God in wonder and awe. You suddenly understand what the Hebrews meant when they talked about the fear of the Lord. You are not afraid. You are overcome with reverent amazement.
God looks at you with great love and asks you a strange question. “Beloved, do you deserve all this?”
Your newly-warmed blood suddenly runs cold. Deserve this? Health and wholeness? New life and eternal life? A world made new? A city where you get to live with God forever? Who could possibly deserve all this? Certainly not you.
Now you are afraid. Afraid of judgment. Of who-knows-what terrifying alternative to this joyful bliss.
You begin to think through your life. The bad parts, the regrets and wrongdoings, come to mind quickly. You are grieved to the depths of our being. If only you’d known. Maybe you could have done things differently. Maybe you could have done better. Maybe you could have done enough to deserve this. But you’re sure you haven’t. You weep for all the life you wasted, all the hurt you caused yourself and others.
God smiles. “Enough,” says the voice of Love. “Enough.”
And, as God looks at you, you begin to remember the good things, the love you felt for others. You remember gratitude, and joy. You remember those you helped and those who helped you. You remember acts of courage and compassion. Your tears of sorrow turn to tears of joy with all these good memories.
But these seem so small and insignificant in the face of this new creation. Nothing you could have ever done would compare with this great gift. You could never earn it, never deserve it. Not if you had a thousand perfect lifetimes to live.
God smiles. “Exactly,” says the voice of Love. “Exactly.”
God wipes the tears from your eyes. “No more,” says the voice of Love. “The resurrection of condemnation is no more. Tears, death, and mourning are no more.”
God leads you into the line of people streaming into the city. And with them, you dance, and sing and shout for joy.
“See, I am making all things new,” says the voice of Love. “Even you.”