Wipe Away Every Tear

“Wipe Away Every Tear”

Revelation 21:1-6 (21:4) – November 1, 2021

            Do you remember the ending to fairy tales? “…and they lived happily ever after.” After life in this world, a life lived in an imperfect world of sadness, fear, sickness, anxiety, evil, trauma and death, I think “they lived happily ever after” sounds pretty good!

            Our Scripture reading for All Saints Day comes from Revelation, the last book of the Bible. Chapter 21 is all about the new heavens and the new earth, after God remakes everything; the heavens, the earth, and every creature living on the earth, including the New Jerusalem, the Holy City. The imperfect, fallen creation has passed away, and everything has become new!

            I want us to focus on one verse in particular: “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Wow! That must be something! Something other-worldly, indeed!   

            But, as I’ve said to my children a number of times before, we aren’t there yet.

            We still live in this imperfect world. Sure, it’s still a world of marvelous beauty. I have just finished a month of posting October nature photos on social media, on Facebook and Twitter. I have taken some remarkable photos in the past few weeks, and it is a joy to be able to show many people the natural wonders I have seen and experienced in the Chicago area.

            Let’s take a look way back – far, far back, to the beginning of the world. The creation of the heavens and the earth, back in Genesis chapters 1 and 2. Those first two chapters are filled with wonders, with marvelous word pictures. And when God finished the whole creation, God called it all very good. A stamp of divine approval, indeed!

In the fantasy book The Magician’s Nephew, one of the Chronicles of Narnia, we see the great Lion, Aslan, creating the brand new world where the land of Narnia is going to be. As Aslan sings His powerful, magnificent song of creation, the newly created stars sing for joy, simply because they can! C.S. Lewis did a vibrantly imaginative job in his novel, bringing Narnia to life at its beginning. I can just image the almighty God who created our heavens and earth doing something very much similar – singing the universe into being!    

            Sadly, things did not stay that way. Sin entered into the world. Adam, Eve, a serpent, and fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were all mixed up together, and from that time, the earth has been imperfect. A fallen planet, with imperfect, fallen creatures living on it.

            With sin, death entered into our reality, into our fallen creation. Yes, there is a remarkable amount of beauty in this world, but a great deal of suffering and trauma exists as well; a lot of death and mourning and crying and pain. We here in this imperfect world miss our relatives and loved ones who have died, who have transitioned to be with the Lord.

            When some people think and talk about going to heaven, they might speak of people in long white robes singing in heavenly choirs. Or, playing harps while sitting on clouds. Sure, our hymn setting of the Doxology tells us the heavenly angels praise God a lot – “praise God above, ye heavenly host.” I want everyone to notice that we are among “all creatures here below.” 

Everyone who loved God and has died is one of “the heavenly host.” All the saints we talk about in worship today praised God when they were creatures here below. These saints praise God now among the heavenly host, even before God remakes the world anew! [1] Praising God, especially in song, is one way people in this world and the heavenly realm connect.

However, let us jump forward to the new heavens and new earth again. I am not sure, but I suspect there will be a whole lot more to do in heaven than just play harps. These first few verses of Revelation chapter 21 hint at the vast new possibilities we will have, with a whole new heaven and earth laid out before us. Our God will be with us forever, and God has promised to eliminate grieving and mourning, to wipe away every tear from every eye.

            You and I may mourn here in this world. We may bend and bow and be pressed by the stresses and strains of life here, with all the difficulties and sorrows. “Honestly facing the pressures of life is the essential first step toward dealing with them, but it is viewing them in the light of eternity that gives them their true place in the scheme of things. The troubles of this age seem beyond solution, but Christ has broken the seals and confounded the darkness with light. “The old order of things” is passing away, “now the dwelling of God is with people, and he will live with them” and “God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” [2]

            That is not only comforting news, comforting to our hearts and minds, but it is marvelous news for all eternity. What we experience in this life is not the final chapter. We get a promo, like a movie trailer in the theater, letting us know about coming events, coming attractions.

            Revelation 21 and 22 are only a little glimpse into the new heaven and new earth, but I want to see more. Don’t you? How wonderful that there will no longer be any reason to shed tears or mourn or have pain.

No matter what you and I are going through right now, our Lord Jesus has promised to stay right by our sides. Plus, God has promised us a future more wonderful than anyone can possibly imagine. And, that is a divine promise.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!


[1] http://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/2015/09/year-b-all-saints-day-november-1-2015.html

[2] http://www.lectionarystudies.com/easter4ce.html

“God Will Wipe Away All Our Tears,” Rev. Bryan Findlayson, Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons, Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources.

An Instrument of Peace

“An Instrument of Peace”

instrument of Your peace, round

John 14:27 – February 17, 2016

This evening, we are going to consider pursuing peace within ourselves. Tonight we consider two things: a verse and a prayer. Both have a great deal to say about peace. And both are examples for us and our daily lives.

First, the verse. Giving you some context, this verse comes from the final night our Lord Jesus spent on earth. Jesus was at a Passover dinner, or seder, with His friends. The Gospel of John gives us an extended look at this evening, and devotes several chapters to this time. Jesus discusses some things and gives His disciples some last instructions.

Now, the verse, John 14:27. “27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

These familiar words of Jesus we’ve just read can sound far away and distant. Perhaps we remember this verse from a funeral, or quoted by a chaplain at a hospital or care center. It seems that almost every week we are surrounded by evidence of upset, catastrophe, and trauma. Many people today are searching for peace in an anxious, unpeaceful world.

Remember the political situation Jesus was operating under! Israel was an occupied country. Politically, the situation was not good. Personally, in the life of Jesus, this was not a peaceful time, either. Remember where Jesus was, here in John 14. This was the Passion Week of our Lord, hours before His arrest. Imagine what Jesus was preparing Himself to go through, in the next hours. Yet, we hear Jesus talk about peace. His peace. He wants to share His peace with all those who are listening. Amazing. Astounding. Almost inconceivable.

Suppose we catch on, and suppose a light bulb goes off in our heads, and we say to ourselves, “Maybe what I’ve been hearing in church on Sundays and in services on Wednesdays is worthwhile, after all! Maybe God really does want to give me peace. Maybe God wants me to focus on peace on the inside. Internally.”

So, some people turn around and concentrate on the inside! To be more specific, on their insides. The internal person. But there’s a danger here, too. If we’re not careful, worry and anxiety can sneak into the picture. Worry and anxiety can push away peace. Worry and anxiety can gnaw away on the insides, as well as our relationships with God and with others around us.

Has anyone here had any experience with termites? I never have, thank God, but I understand that termites can go through large amounts wood over an extended period of time. If we allow worry and anxiety to eat away at our peace with God and with others, it’s like termites eating away at a wooden front porch. After a period of time, even though the porch looks stable, and seems like it can hold weight, it collapses.

It’s the same way with us, when we lose peace. When we allow worry and anxiety to get the better of us and take control of our insides. This refers to the second part of verse 14:27, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” This is Jesus giving advice to us! He is helping us hang onto the peace He’s just given us, just as He told the disciples so long ago. This is an exhortation, not a suggestion.

The second half of this meditation tonight lifts up a prayer. It is a really good prayer: arguably the most famous prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. There is no direct link to St. Francis, but one of his companions, the Blessed Giles of Assisi, wrote a short synopsis of this prayer. The prayer could very well have been enlarged and written from those words.

The first line of this prayer runs as follows: “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.” I am assuming we all want the peace that Jesus so freely gives away. Jesus gives it away to anyone. I mean, anyone. Step right up, and Jesus will lovingly give you peace. His peace.

This wonderful prayer lets us know some of the outgrowths of the peace of Christ. For example, using God’s peace, we can sow love, pardon, faith, hope, light, and joy.

St. Francis and St. Giles knew very well that they were both imperfect people. Yet, this meaningful prayer was an expression of everything they strove to do and everything they tried to live by. We, too, are imperfect people. Anxious, fearful, sometimes even angry and sinful people. Yet, we can be instruments of God’s peace, too.

This night was the most event-filled night of our Lord Jesus’ life. He knew what was coming. Yet—He makes the statement, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.” He gave His disciples the gift of His peace.

Jesus gives us the same gift, today, too. His peace. It isn’t peace like the world would expect. It isn’t always external peace (although it can very well be that, too!), but it is peace on the inside. Peace where it counts, as far as Jesus is concerned. We have His word on it. He promises to give us peace in our interior selves. So that, imperfect as we all are, we can be instruments of God’s peace to our brothers and sisters, and to the world.

Amen.