See, I am making all things new!

“See, I am making all things new.”

How appropriate to read these words on this day; a day when we remember those who founded and led this nation from its first days. Today, we remember that the founders of this country went out onto a proverbial limb – a new continent – with hopes and dreams of equality, justice, and freedom.

It should be no surprise to you that this very same idea is at the heart of our reading from Revelation this morning. “See, I am making all things new.” Roman occupation of Jerusalem had reached its peak, and the survival of God’s people seemed unlikely at best. Equality, justice and freedom were, well, far-off dreams.

In this portion of John’s apocalypse, we hear and see images of God establishing a new city, a place where mourning and crying and pain – and even death itself – would be no more.

“See, I am making all things new.”

Now, as it turns out, this longing for a new city, a new nation, a new way of life, is pretty universal. Augustine of Hippo, a fifth-century bishop in North Africa used these verses to calm God’s people after the sack of Rome. He spoke of a new way of life, where God would bring about healing, reconciliation and justice for God’s people.

Being in the 500th year of the Protestant Reformation, it’d be silly not to mention Martin Luther, who declared that God was calling the Catholic Church to be a new creation. He spoke of this “New Jerusalem” as an ideal – not an earthly city found in our time and place, but a heavenly city – a city where we each have one foot firmly planted: fully citizen of earth, fully citizen of heaven.

And since we are celebrating Black History Month, I how could I not remember the Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s 1968 speech “I See the Promised Land!” In that profound sermon, King said:

“It’s all right to talk about ‘streets flowing with milk and honey,’ but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s [people] must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee.”

In all these longings, God’s people have held fast to one ideal: that in the midst of oppression and injustice, mourning and crying and pain, God is making all things new.

Once upon a time the leaders of this nation did — and I pray they still do — believe that God is making all things new. But today I want to challenge your assumptions of what that means. What if God’s vision of equality, justice, and freedom were brought about by our own actions? What if God’s “New Jerusalem” starts with us, standing up for the oppressed and suffering? What if we were the agents of change in a world that so desperately needs to be made new?

“See, I am making all things new.”

This country was founded on the ideal that God would make each of us a new creation. This country was founded on that proverbial limb with hopes and dreams of equality, justice, and freedom for all people. This country was founded on those principles of religious, racial, and cultural diversity and equality. And today, as God makes all things new in our own lives, I believe there is work to be done on God’s behalf.

Today, I encourage you to remember two important things. First, God is doing a new thing – here in Trenton, in our nation, and in the world. Second, these new things happening around us are not just an escape from the old things, but rather a more fully-realized vision of God’s creation.

See, God is making all things new. So death and mourning will be no more – for God is doing a new thing. Crying and pain will be no more – for God is doing a new thing. Shame and guilt and division will be no more – for God is doing a new thing. Racism and classism and homophobia will be no more – for God is doing a new thing. Violence and hatred and bigotry and Islamophobia will be no more – for God is doing a new thing.

Today, we celebrate the legacy of the first president of these United States of America. We celebrate the man and men — lest we forget the women — who saw God doing a new thing in their midst.

I pray we, too, might see all the ways in which God is making us new each day. May we be open to a new way of living, one that grants life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all people. May we work toward equality, justice, and freedom for all people. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds as we live together in Christ Jesus.

Amen.


This address was delivered at the annual Presidents’ Day Prayer Service on February 20, 2017, at St Michael’s Episcopal Church in Trenton, NJ.

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