Friday, November 04, 2016

Repairing The World

Revelation 21:1-6    (NRSV)
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;
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.

There is a town in Southwest, Ohio --- it is a pretty small town ---- named for Jeremiah Morrow, one of Ohio’s early governors.

I imagine most of the town's residents probably wish his name had been something like Jeremiah Smith.

As you can imagine, the town's name can provide for some confusion ---- especially when someone wanted to get to Morrow tomorrow

Bob Gibson, realized the possibilities and a funny song was born. 

It was recorded by Gibson and a number of other people --- including The Kingston Trio and my favorite by far is the version by the Muppets --- you need to go find it on youtube!          (

The song goes like this:

To Morrow

I started on a journey, about a year ago
To a little town called Morrow in the state of Ohio
I've never been much of a traveller, so I really didn't know
That Morrow was the hardest place I'd ever try to go!

I went down to the station for my ticket and applied
For tips regarding Morrow not expecting to be guyed
Said I," I'd like to go to Morrow and return
No later than tomorrow, for I haven't time to burn."

Said he to me, "now let me see if I have heard you right--
You'd like to go to Morrow and return tomorrow night"
"You should have gone to Morrow yesterday and back today
For the train today to Morrow is a mile upon its way....

"If you had gone to Morrow yesterday now don't you see
You could have gone to Morrow and returned today at three.
For the train today to Morrow, if the schedule is right
Today it goes to Morrow and returns tomorrow night.

As the song points out ---- getting to tomorrow can sometimes be a difficult proposition!

That's always been true!

Especially when we turn tomorrow into a day, when all of the problems of today are going to be solved.

I bet you all remember that it is Annie who reminds us --- Tomorrow is ALWAYS a day away!

When we look at "tomorrow" in the Bible, tomorrow --- the future ---- the time that has not yet arrived --- tomorrow is the assurance that the present is never the end of the story.

It reminds us that the darkness of today will not survive into tomorrow.

One of the prophet Jeremiah's favorite phrases was "the days are surely coming . . ."

Jeremiah was proclaiming this during the dark and dismal days of Israel's history.
For the Israelites at that time --- the future (along with the present) looked pretty bleak!

But by reminding the people that there would be a  TOMORROW --- Jeremiah and the prophets were able to encourage Israel to keep their faith alive.

The future --- tomorrow is also very important for us as Christians.

For us it means something like this:
When you embrace the way of Christ, you enter the kingdom of God, which is already here in some ways.
But you also inherit the hope of the kingdom to come, where God’s love and power will have full sway, where all wrongs will be righted and where there will be neither sorrow nor suffering anymore.

If you listened closely to our reading today from Revelation --- you heard this same idea

The author says: (Revelation 21:1-4 The Message)
I saw Heaven and earth new-created. Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea.

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! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”

I can't tell you how many times I have said to people:
          "Don't lose hope --- tomorrow will be a better day"

or we say things like
Quoting Paul in Romans
"Nothing can separate us from the love of God"

“Tomorrow — some distant tomorrow — you will see your loved one again.”
“Tomorrow there will be war no more.”
“Tomorrow all violence will cease, and people will live peaceably with their neighbors.”
And so on.

But that tomorrow is shrouded in mystery

And when we offer consolation or encouragement with words like those --- even though it is the basis of our confidence --- it seems so far off that it often seems like wishful thinking.

I am fascinated with the history of World War II

During the early dark days of the war, England was unprepared to defend itself against the German onslaught.

Night after night German planes bombed London.
          Parents sent their children into the countryside hoping to keep them safe
          London was under constant threat and fear
The British air force --- which was no match to the German Luftwaffe, in personal or equipment --- did their best to defend their island nation.  But the reality is, many did not survive.

One of the most popular songs in England during that time was “The White Cliffs of Dover,” which proclaimed,
“There’ll be joy and laughter
And peace ever after,
when the world is free ... Tomorrow
Just you wait and see.”

The mood of that song sounds a great deal like our reading from Revelation.
The tomorrow that they proclaimed was not an eternal one
It was a tomorrow within the lifetime of that generation.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is not about "Heaven" but is best understood as envisioning a this-world someday.

At the beginning of the 20th century it was a time of great hope and optimism.

Many believed that our world was making progress toward becoming a more just society.
They believed that being a disciple of Jesus was more than just saving souls but being a Christian also required that they had to tackle the social problems of their day
·         poverty
·         warfare
·         human injustice

They saw themselves establishing a new social order
          A social order build on peace, justice and well-being

They took very seriously the call of Micah as he proclaimed:
"what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)

Unfortunately, two World Wars, The Great Depression and the Holocaust put a damper on the optimism and hope of so many!

Christians began to realize that WHEN the Kingdom of God arrives it will because GOD has acted to make it so and not the result of our own doing.

And while they did not usher in the Kingdom of God as they had anticipated --- the Social Gospel Movement created some important and significant changes in our world.
Many of their ideals wound up in the New Deal legislation of the 1930's and I imagine most people who are getting a Social Security check is pretty thankful for that.

But it also helped us to recognize that we (as Christians) have a responsibility not only for one's soul but also for each other's and their own whole being.

While we cannot expect to establish the Kingdom of God (that has to be God's doing).
We must recognize that we have a responsibly to care for God's world and people --- even if it is only temporary.

After Hurricane Katrina, work teams from all over the United States of America (I believe Meridian Street was one of those churches) traveled to New Orleans to help rebuild the homes of people who didn’t have enough insurance or other income to rebuild on their own.
It has been slow work, and volunteers are still at it 11 years after the hurricane.
But wait! Aren’t at least some of those homes being rebuilt in areas that are likely to flood again in a major storm?

What’s the point of rebuilding there?

The point, of course, is that that is where people live.

Some have little option but to stay on property they already own.

We certainly can’t predict their future, but in the meantime, they have to have a place to live, so the church moves to help them where they are.
Even if a storm takes their restored homes next year, the work of God’s people hasn’t been for naught.

In Judaism there is a wonderful phrase for this concept --- it is called tikkun olam and it literally means "repairing the world".

The expression tikkun olam is used in the Mishnah to indicate that a practice should be followed not because it is required by Biblical law, but because it helps avoid social disharmony.

Tikkun olam isn't just about good works, it is closer to the concept of advocacy.

Tikkun olam isn't acts of mercy --- even though acts of mercy are important.

It's about engaging in social justice while also meeting people’s spiritual and physical needs.

The truth is while we strive to repair the world --- by securing economic well-being and equal rights for everyone --- we also need to assist people in helping them get shelter, food, and clothing, and also help them in finding God.

The kingdom of God is the ultimate tomorrow.

It’s the goal of history and the reward of the faithful.

The Kingdom's coming --- is up to God.

But between today and that tomorrow are the nearer tomorrows.

We who follow Jesus have the duty to make sure that the doors of justice and society’s benefits are open for all for those tomorrows and that the Discipleship Path to spiritual fulfillment is well marked.

And we shouldn’t wait for tomorrow to get started.

Because we can get there from here.

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