Sermon: A Whole New World (or, The End of the World as we Know it?!)
Revelation 21:10, 21.22 – 22.5; John 5: 1-9
Our readings today share themes of new beginnings; the ending of old ways; and the vision of God’s perfect creation as it was meant to be in the vision of New Jerusalem in all her glory.
As we, mired as we are in political uncertainty and uncertainty about our own future, contemplate old ways vs new ways, what can these two readings tell us? Where is our hope? Where is God moving us? Pushing us? Nudging us forward?
In these uncertain days there is still certainty. For God is the constant in our lives. The theme which overarched this week’s General assembly was Jesus’ call “Follow me”, and every day, as debates and discussions took place, the Moderator, with gentle humour, reminded commissioners that all that we do, we do remembering who it is we follow, who it is we serve.
Through the Radical Action Plan, and the Special Commission investigation into the practises of the church, the Church of Scotland undertook to commit to change. Big changes which will devolve some of the power and influence away from Edinburgh, to the local and regional church.
From reducing the number of presbyteries; to reducing the number of staff in Edinburgh; to endorsing new ways of being church in our communities; reaffirming the commitment to the people of Scotland – regardless of faith or creed.
The church has confirmed that as the national church we want to be in our communities, caring for those who look to the church for comfort and support.
What does that look like in reality? Finance; buildings; personnel – all have been subject to decisions which will cast ripples far and wide. And to assure you – it was not all about cut! There is a new “Growth Fund” specifically for church planting; for developing local churches projects and initiatives.
It is hard to say, right now, just how we, here in Earlston, will be affected – though we know because of the discussions we have had over the past six months, that there will be change in the whole Leaderdale area.
Next Saturday is an important day for our Presbytery; there is a full day conference for representatives from every church in the presbytery – the discussions we have had, alongside those of other groups will be brought together to see if, working collaboratively, we may come up with a new look for the Presbytery (and neighbouring Presbyteries too) – groups, hubs, clusters – whatever we call it – we are exploring new ways of being and creating church.
Change is nothing new: time and again Jesus moved people to change: change of heart; change of status; change of life.
Jesus’ encounter with the man at the pool brought about huge change in everything he knew. Jesus’ question to him: “do you want to be healed?” was the very core of the issue. His life was not perfect, but it was predictable, relatively comfortable, it had rhythm and familiarity.
His answer, a stumbling excuse for not changing was not enough. He acceptance of the command, “stand up!” moved him from life as a crippled beggar, relying on others for everything he needed, to (literally) standing on his own two feet – making his own way in the world. The secondary command “lift up your mat” ensured he did not simply lie back down, but rather HAD to engage with this new thing.
It will not have been easy – he had never walked; never had to work; never looked after himself. This is a whole new world for him. Scary and overwhelming. I suspect that once the initial euphoria wore off he may have wished to go back to those days of lying on his mat. Begging. Waiting. But. Waiting around for someone else to act is not what Jesus requires: get up! Walk! Do your own thing! Follow me…
St John’s vision of the end of the world offers a vision of New Jerusalem and life as it could be: life with no darkness in it; no pain; no death; no sin.
Life in all its goodness. Complete and whole – living in God’s eternal light. Lion and lamb together. An abundance of fruit sustaining us. Life as God intended… the end of this world marks a transition into a new and perfect world.
We, both Earlston Church, and the Church of Scotland as a whole are waiting beside the pool for a sign.
We have choices. We can continue to lie on the mat, waiting for something to happen.
Or, we can listen to Jesus’ call “Follow me!”
“Get up! Move! Step out!!”
Instead of passively waiting for someone else to tell us what to do; we can move forward with others; it’s a whole new world out there!
"A whole new world,
A new fantastic point of view,
No one to tell us no,
Or where to go,
Or say we're only dreaming…
A whole new world." (Disney's Aladdin)