God’s Vision for a New Creation

Sunday, June 25, 2023
Katie Hendrikson, MDiv

Revelation 21:1-5

Grace, peace, and mercy are yours, from Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
It is so wonderful to be back in this pulpit again, standing in front of the
church that raised me.
I have been back in Minnesota for almost a year now and have stayed
plenty busy over the past 10 months. I have been working part time at a
church in Edina doing Children, Youth and Family Ministry and filling my
remaining free time working at Target.
Target isn’t my first retail job and it isn’t so glamorous. The discount isn’t
great, and I have to wear my least favorite color when I’m working- red.
But what Target is…Target is a family. There are typically around 100 team
members scheduled at the store throughout the day, but you’d never know
it based on how we all interact with each other.
We know about each others’ families, we often know what each other had
for dinner the night before, sometimes we bicker like siblings, and
sometimes we spend time together outside of work. Target is a family.
And just over two weeks ago, our Target family was struck with tragedy. A
beloved coworker was killed in a single-vehicle accident in southern
Minnesota. She was just 20 years old.
The news of this accident spread through the store like wildfire. My
department was pulled into the office one by one, while the rest of the team
followed, hearing the news two by two.
My initial response to this news was shock. And then my thoughts moved
to how unfair it is. For her family. Her friends. Her coworkers. Her 4
month old baby boy.. For how senseless it is. How do you explain the
reason behind the death of someone who still had their entire life to live?
There has been a constant swarm of emotions and continued feelings of
emptiness over the past two weeks- even with dozens of employees in the
store, there is still someone from our team missing. As a team, we have all
struggled to wrap our heads around the situation. It doesn’t feel real. It
doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel fair.
Last Friday, a group from our store attended the burial for our coworker.
The cemetery was filled with family and friends including a clump of
people wearing red– her Target family. As she was laid to rest, we heard
words from the 21st chapter of the book of Revelation. The same words we
heard today.
In my head I thought “there’s no way I am hearing this at a burial and will
be preaching Good news from the same passage” But there has to be a
connection between life and death and God’s vision for a new creation…so
what is it?
The world we live in today- it’s unfair. Unfair power, unfair control, unfair
wealth. We live in a world, a country, even a state where social class
impacts the kind of life you live. If you’re born into poverty, something that
is undoubtedly passed from one generation to the next, it can feel nearly
impossible to move up the social class ladder.
Consider this example– To get a job, to make ends meet- one needs
accessibility to fill out an application, most that are now done
electronically. When filling out that application, you need a phone number
where you can be reached. To get that phone number, you likely need a cell
phone, and to get that cell phone, you almost always need an address and
proof of income.
So, just in the first step of trying to get a job, we are already striking out.
We need a phone to get an income, but we need an income to get a phone.
It’s cyclical and for so many families, it never ends.
While the social class construct is just one example of an unfair system,
there are plenty of other situations and systems in place where we
experience senselessness or unfairness as individuals, as families, as a
There’s social violence. Mental illness. Job loss. Injury or death of a loved
one. Chronic or terminal illness. Access to education. Substance use.
Incarceration. The list goes on and there is no way around the bad stuff for
any of us.
And the same is true of the ancient empires that existed thousands of years
ago. Life in the Roman Empire was ruthless. Many were captive to imperial
domination and regularly experienced mourning, pain and death, just as
we do today. There was senseless violence, and unfair systems in place.
In the Roman Empire too, your quality of life depends on how you fall
within those systems of power and control- a lot depends on your
economic status. If you are one of the many that live in poverty, you lack
access to education. You live in rundown housing, often crammed into a
space with others you don’t know. You frequently live off the charity and
kindness of others. Life seems unfair.
If you’re considered wealthy, you are educated, you have a steady income
and stable housing, and you likely even benefit from the labor of slaves.
Then, at the very top of the social class ladder is the imperial family. In this
case, the Flavian (fla-vee-un) Dynasty. They are the ones with the power
and control- they call all the shots.
And within that dynasty is Titus, who succeeded his father as emperor in
79 AD. But before succeeding the throne, Titus led the Roman army and
with violence, destroyed the city of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 AD.
And that way of life- a life full of violence and division, iniquity and
senseless acts– that way of life is what inspired the revelation and vision of
a ‘new creation.’ It’s a place that aspired to be everything that the empire is
So what would it look like to rest in a place where life is fair and violence is
The coming of God’s new creation is something different from the life we
know today. It’s something we’ve never seen or experienced before. God’s
new creation is filled with promises of healing and reconciliation, promises
of resurrection and eternal life. In this place of new creation, God wipes our
tears away; death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain…will be
no more…(21:4) And maybe you’re thinking ‘wow, that sounds a lot like
heaven’, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
From a young age, we are taught that heaven is above us, that our souls
ascend on their way toward eternal life. But in God’s new creation, rather
than our souls ascending to God’s Kingdom, this kingdom descends to us.
We hear of it from Matthew, in a prayer you all know well….”your
kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We are
praying for God’s vision of a new creation to become a reality every time we
say the Lord’s prayer.
We are praying for a place of respite and care, stability and equity.
God’s vision for a new Jerusalem fulfills so many of the promises made
throughout the Bible… from Genesis 3 and Revelation 22, sin and death are
completely wiped away. From Isaiah 43 and 65, from humans to water,
creatures and souls– all things are made new. From Ezekiel 17 and
Zechariah 10, a new land for all their peoples.
This place is seen as replacing the empire of Rome; it is a place that
encourages the resistance of the way of life in Rome- it is seen as a place
that is fair and just.
C. Wess Daniels of Guilford College writes that “what follows are
appearances and teachings from the risen Jesus forming a ‘resurrection
community’ that will go on to resist the empire and embody the teachings
and spirit of Jesus Christ in the world. In this place there is community, a
liberated world, a new reality marked by all things being made new.”
God’s new creation is a place where all are invited and all are able to thrive.
Life and its essentials are given freely. It is a place where rivers flow, the
tree of life heals, and God’s presence lights up all things. In this place, there
is no need to determine what is unfair, there is no need to make sense of
grief or loss or trauma because all of that has been left in the crumbling
dust that was once the empire. Mourning, pain and death come to an end
in God’s holy city.
And perhaps that’s why this passage was read at my friend’s burial…why
it’s often known to be a funeral text. To remind us of what’s to come within
God’s vision for new creation. There is something better ahead for us all. In
this place, I wouldn’t be trying to make sense of my friend’s death. I
wouldn’t be thinking how unfair it is for her friends, her family, her child.
Because in this place, the bad stuff wouldn’t happen. It wouldn’t exist.
In a world that is so obsessed with control and violence and greed, death
seems like a punishment that’s also a relief. Why would we want to live in
such a terrible place? Why would we want to be consumed with grief and
heartbreak and despair? We are rescued from the grip of this wretchedness
because we are made in the image of the living God. This living God is an
everlasting God, and so our heritage from this God is eternal life.
No matter how horrible, senseless or unfair our lives might be, our
everlasting God promises a kingdom, a new creation, a holy city filled with
life and love and joy and peace where we get to live the rest of our lives
that remain ahead of us. And the most amazing thing is- that eternal life
starts now. God’s kingdom is here and now. God’s promises are for all of
us, and God’s promises happen now. Thanks be to God, amen.

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