TEXT: Revelation 21: 1-6
Move 1: Introduction
Peter had a vision of a new world, a new order of creation. This morning I want to follow Peter’s vision with the vision of John. Listen for the Word of God in Revelation 21: 1-6:
"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. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 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.” 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.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life." (Revelation 21:1-6, NRSV)
Prayer for Enlightenment
Move 2: Visionary Thinkers
Peter and John were visionaries. They were able to see beyond the distractions of their day. They could perceive God doing a new thing in this world and they invited others to share the vision with them.
The substance of visions is mystical, full of symbols and metaphor. In Peter’s vision he saw a sheet which enfolded all manner of animals, both clean and unclean according to Jewish Law. Then he heard a voice from heaven command him to take and eat. Like any good Jew Peter was reluctant–after all look what kind of trouble Adam and Eve got into for eating the forbidden apple. But the voice of God insisted, take and eat, whatever I have blessed is clean for you.
Of course the teaching wasn’t just about what foods a good Jew could eat. The sheet and the animals were a metaphor for creation, and the message was clear. Even the gentiles had a share in God’s gift of repentance and salvation.
John’s vision was even more radical. I like the way the Message by Eugene Peterson translates this passage: “I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband. I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women!” Now that’s a radical vision.
Move 3: Visionaries Are Often Scorned
I’m sure that the visions of Peter and John were not immediately embraced by their contemporaries. For example, it took more than two hundred years for the Revelation of John to be accepted by the church as a part of the canon of scripture. Even then his visionary writing was still hotly debated and challenged until the 15th century.
Visionaries, those who are able to see beyond the same-old, same-old way of life, are often ridiculed, looked down on, sometimes put in prison sometimes like Galileo, some like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King have been killed for their vision. But true visionaries are seldom discouraged by public opinion or even personal hardship and threats. Peter and John weren’t intimidated by their contemporaries. They continued to share their vision, to preach and teach that God busy about the work of transformation, making all things new.
Move 4: The Work of the Church
John’s Revelation is often read as if it were all about some future world, some future time, but John’s world was already being transformed by God and John knew it. He wanted others to catch the vision and see what he could see.
The church John served was madly persecuted by the first empire wide persecution of believers in Christ. Men, women, and children–whole families–were being tortured and martyred every day. But John’s community had a shared vision–not just for some future world beyond time and over the rainbow, but for the here and now.
Move 5: Think Outside the Box
Do you see how the world is being transformed by God? Do you have a vision for how God is already living in our neighborhoods? The church needs visionaries even today in the 21st century. Don’t be afraid to express your vison.