Posts Tagged ‘St. John’

All Things New Again

April 27, 2013 1 comment

“I am making all things new again.” With these words from Revelation, the Lord has reaffirmed that creation is an ongoing event. He didn’t say, “I’ll go ahead and make some changes now” or “after this you’re on your own,” but He says “I am making…all things new…again” What comes out of the old, out of the used, out of the unwanted and yes, even out of things destroyed, something new is emerging and we need to take notice. In our times these events might not be as magnificent as rebuilding a temple or raising someone from the dead, but God is constantly at work renewing everything around us. Life goes on whether we pay attention to it or not. And just as in our day, in the times these books were written there was a great deal to pay attention to. Christianity was new and there were small sects forming everywhere the apostles went. And of course there was Paul who had just begun converting the Greeks to Christianity. Rome was keeping an eye and ear out for challenges to their dynasty. Many of those people who believed that Jesus was the Messiah were in disbelief that He even died the way He did, and could barely comprehend Him rising from the dead. And not only were they struggling with the idea that it could even happen, Luke tells us in his narrative in the Acts of the Apostles that even those who did believe, struggled with the thought of the Good News being intended for people outside of their own faith and culture. Because when someone who is different from you claims to have received and benefitted by the same blessings – without going through the customary rituals and trials that you have; well, we think something has to be very wrong with this. Still we find one of the most important events that helped make Christianity universal and indistinctive to cultures or countries right here in this text.
What had started out with one small group of Jews was now being made new and was spreading throughout the region. The stories of Jesus were being heard. The Holy Spirit was moving through the land. So it was only a matter of time before word reached out on the country roads apart from the villages and cities to these outsiders. I’m sure it was a tough decision for Peter who was given the vision and tasked with going to meet the Gentiles – and let’s be reminded that the word Gentile means “people living in the country” – that they were just as worthy as those who celebrated the customs and lived by the laws of Moses. I know this Peter; right here would have been a bit more confused with the issue at hand in the vision. After seeing everything on the sheet that came down from heaven and being told “eat”, I might have said, “finally! Pass the bacon and shrimp, please?” But as we know, the symbolism of the dietary restrictions being lifted meant those who didn’t abide by these laws were also worthy, and so Peter makes the visit and sees first-hand what the power of the Holy Spirit can do. He knows at that moment what was being made new again and saw that the old covenant was no longer: a new one had been made in and through Christ. Who was Peter, to oppose what God had ordained and make his own determination as to who was worthy or not? This displayed the faith that Peter was noted for but it goes deeper than faith. It takes great courage as well. To see beyond our self-imposed boundaries and the boundaries established by governments, religions, and corporations, and see that others are truly worthy of these same gifts of the Spirit – and that we are all created by the same God – is a gift. It was this gift that allowed him to see how God was “making all things new.”
This gift was also special because it carried with it hope that they were accepting these changes for the good, because there is always the chance that along with change come challenges and confrontations can escalate quickly in times of stress and trouble. Sudden change can create fear and for some, fear may be a constant factor in never dealing with new things.
So which direction do we turn when confronted with change? Do we walk in faith or turn away in fear? Do we condemn others and ignite violence? Or do we turn and face the situation head on? Can we honestly search out what we can to find the hope within the situation and seek out what God can make new again? In events such as the bombing at the Boston marathon we observed similar responses and types of thought. One response was to begin searching for reasons and profiling subjects that weren’t even known, planning out retribution and how to get even. Yet another response showed the compassion of bystanders – rushing into the blast area, even before the smoke had cleared, to see what help they could provide to the injured. They assessed the situation, and used all their available resources to save lives. Peter’s situation wasn’t a bomb exploding, but it held the same tensions and contained similar attitudes when he returned from meeting with the Gentiles. New territory had been reached in communicating the work and words of Jesus with people outside of their group. Not only were they Gentiles, not only did he meet with them; but he ate with them as well. If you know anything about the care taken not to contaminate a kosher meal, you can understand how much of a shock this was to the disciples who had just heard the story. A meal was sacred and all Jewish faithful did what they could to follow the laws. There was finger pointing and probably some name calling. But Peter calms them with his explanation and they are beyond satisfied; they are silenced and awed by the result.
As the apostles and other disciples slowly began to accept others into their fold, we can begin to see the words of Jesus in John’s gospel take shape within them. Something was being made new again. Jesus was gone from their sight, but His words were still fresh in the minds of His followers. “I give you a new commandment.” He wasn’t parting with the ways of Torah, but rather refreshing it. He wasn’t destroying something old and useless, He was re-enforcing it. He wasn’t denying anyone the love of God, He was multiplying it. And to this end, we have the answer to everything we need to know about how to handle every change we face. “Love one another.” There’s a story that the apostle John, who had lived longer than any of the others was in his final days, being cared for in Ephesus. As was the custom, when it came time for the sermon, John would be carried in on a mat where he would preach to the crowd. He always ended his sermon with the words “Love one another.” As he became weaker and his strength began to fail the last several times they carried him out, all he said was “Love one another.” After a few times of doing this, someone asked him, “John, why do you no longer speak the way you used to? Why do you keep reciting the same words over and over?” John replied, “Because I’ve come to realize that those are the only words that matter. Love one another.”
And so as we leave here today and begin to think about the changes in our lives and around us – let us pray we understand that by being presented with changes, God is making all things new again. And may we also have the faith and courage to react and respond to God’s actions with the only words that matter; “Love one another.”
ref: 5th Sunday of Easter, RCL year C. Acts 11:1-18; Rev 21:1-6; John 13:31-35

Deacon Pete Gdula