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ARTICLE 1

PREPARING FOR YOUR FUTURE
By Reverend Paul Charbonneau

This is one of a series of messages given by the Very Reverend Paul Charbonneau, of St. Hilda’s Anglican Church in 2010, based on Revelation 21:1-22.- 22:5. Paul is not only a pastor but an accomplished artist and arts advocate as well.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. a And ~ saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down¬from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, God's home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people, God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever."

And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am makinq everything new!" And then he said to me, Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true." And he also said, "It is finished! 1 am the Alpha and the Omega--the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. - All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their Cod, and they will be my children. ……”

We have been saying: that our vision of the future shapes the way we live in the present. This morning we are going to look into heaven and see what awaits those who have placed their trust in Jesus, and, we are going to see how that can effect the way we live today. Eugene Peterson reminds us, in his fine book on Revelation, that St. John's final vision of heaven is not an ending, as we might expect, but a fresh beginning, ''Then ! saw a new heaven, and a new earth."

The bible begins quite naturally with a beginning. Genesis chapter 1: !n the beginning, God created.... Now at the end of the bible, not so logically it ends with another beginning. The earth, is restored, renewed, transformed, made perfect again. We have to examine some of the words here: There might be a little confusion because the bible' mentions a new heaven, a new earth, an old heaven and an old earth.  In this context, heavens and earth means simply everything “Heavens”, literally means: the skies above. The sun, the atmosphere, the stars, the planets, everything that is above us. We see and hear these things, through our physical senses. We go star gazing. We listen to the thunder storms. We enjoy the sunset.

The earth, means literally everything that is under us. The good earth that gives us food to eat, and provides for us in so many ways. The creation that is around us . from the smallest microbes to the largest of sea creatures. God's good, very good and beautiful creation. We also experience these things through our physical senses. We watch the tigers play, we listen to the birds, we run our hands through the smooth sands on a seashore and we smell the roses.

The new heavens and the new earth can be experienced through the senses. Often people think of eternal life in heaven in purely spiritual terms. The souls of the departed. A spirit world. An out of body experience. The bible however does not speak of what we would call “heaven” in this way. The gospel message of Jesus Christ does not begin with matter, or things that we can experience through touch, sound, sight and smell and then gradually turn into spirit and soul. 1t is not like we have a body now, die, and then turn into a heavenly spirit, or some kind of ghost. The bible does not begin with a material universe and then gradually turn into a spiritual universe.

The bible says that one day you and I will be transformed, we will have a resurrected body. Something like What Jesus has. Remember that when Jesus rose from the dead, that what we call the resurrection, his body was in many ways recognizable, his body had a physicality, he could eat fish, build a fire, however, it was different, transformed, changed. You and I are promised that one day we too will rise again, and have a new body, living in a new transformed, recreated, physical world.

Verse 3
Rev. 21:3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, God's home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever."

What an awesome vision of the future. No more sorrow, crying, pain, or death. Drink that in. Especially for those of us who have watched a loved one suffer and succumb to an illness. One day, no more pain.  Our vision of the future shapes the way we live in the present. What does this mean for us?  How do we live in the present while we await the day when there will be no more sadness, crying, pain or death? May I suggest we pray for healing in our world right now?
 

The healing ministry has been important to St. Hilda's for a long time. !t is partly what we are known for. We don't have special healing services set aside each month because every time we meet should be a healing service. Amen?  We believe that where two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus, he is in the midst of us. Wherever Jesus went there was healing. We also like to have our healing ministry front and centre. We are to be naturally, supernatural, because healing is the Lord's business and he has invited us to partner with him in prayer. Our job is simply to cry out to Jesus on behalf of the people that we love.

I often think of this passage when I see our dear people praying for others. As the passage suggests, one day, there will be no more sorrow, or pain or death anymore in God's forever kingdom. When we pray for healing we are' simply saying, Your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. And as we see people healed, blessed, comforted, encouraged and given hope, guess what, we are catching a glimpse of God's forever kingdom. Healing acts as a signpost. It point ahead to a time when everything will be transformed and recreated. The healing ministry is vitally important, because it points ahead to the goodness of Jesus. We can talk all day about healing, but let's move on.

Body Column 2

Verse 5
"Look, 1 am making everything new!" And then he said to me, "write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true." And he also said, "It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega-the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.  All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
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And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making everything new!"

Our vision of the future shapes the way we live in the present. What does this mean for us? How do we live in the present while we await the day when everything will be made perfectly new? How do we live in the present? May I suggest, we celebrate the beauty of God's creation right now.
 

Beauty matters. When we enjoy beauty right now it is like a signpost pointing ahead to a great destination. Think of it like John's violin, or the guitar that Russ Moore has just constructed. There is something beautiful about the construction of a musical. instrument, but what makes it really special is knowing the music it is capable of. Another example would be my daughter's engagement ring. It is a delight to the eye, but what is more beautiful is the promise of love that it symbolizes.

I want to talk to the artists and creative people for a moment. I believe we are created in the image of the Creator. That means we too are creative, pro-creators. We have the extraordinary ability to bring forth new life, supremely of course through having children, but in millions of others ways as well. Genuine art is in itself a response to the beauty of creation, which itself is a pointer, or signpost to the beauty of God.

I am not talking about Pantheism, or the worship of nature. There are some that have made care of the natural world almost a religion in itself. They care more for trees than the lives of the unborn or the elderly. Creation is good; but it is not God. It is beautiful, but its beauty is at present transient.

We know that much of our world is in pain and suffers the effects of evil. We should be committed as artists to describing the world not just as it should be, not just as it is, but by God's grace alone, one day shall be. We must never forget that when Jesus rose from the dead, as the first fruits of the new creation, the marks of the nails were still visible on his hands and feet. He was known by the wounds. I think that when art, in its many forms comes to terms with both, the wounds of the world, and the promise of the resurrection, the new creation, and learns how to somehow express that in new and exciting ways we will be putting up another signpost, to the reality of Jesus. This of course will take lots of prayerful imagination. My wife has taught me that in painting a picture you should pray, plan, and then paint.

So art draws attention not only to what things are, but also to the way things will be when the earth is filled with the knowledge and the love of God

Last part:

“All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. "But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, m u rderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars--their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

This final frightening picture of the future shows the outcome who willfully partake in evil and corruption. Sadly we live in a world today that although it has much beauty, there are deep problems that effect many people on our earth. A few people have so much, while many go to bed hungry. (We all at Synod were served nothing but a bowl of rice on the first day…. A fabulous object lesson in what is reality elsewhere.) There is corruption, there are wars where many innocent people are victims.

Our vision of the future shapes the way we live in the present. What does this mean for us?

How do we live in the present awaiting the day when everything will be put to right? We work for justice now. Christina (an installation artist and photographer) passionately explained her calling for those who have been trapped in a lifestyle where they are. being used by others in the sex trade. What Christina was talking about was God's righteous justice. Justice is God's intention when everything will be put to right.

Jesus resurrection from the dead is the supreme example that Gad cares passionately for justice.

That is why believing in the literal resurrection of the body from the dead is crucial. If Jesus left his body behind in the tomb and rose to some spiritual, ghost like resurrection, arid if we are going to do the same as many leading theologians and church leaders believe today, then we are robbed of the power and the truth of the gospel. Why bother in our world if we are going to check out anyway?

That is why, like praying for healing, we say, thy kingdom came on earth as it is in heaven. Lord bring justice to the earth and use me to do it. As the poor are fed, the prisoners visited, the unborn and the elderly sick are loved and cherished, justice comes upon the earth, reflecting the day when everything will be put to right. It is another one of those signposts pointing ahead.

Read again the story of Wilberforce who worked so hard for the abolition of slavery. You will see what he went through, putting up with the bullying attitude that said, we know how the world works, don't bother us with moral arguments. However, the same can be said today about pornography or the work to cancel third world debt. Every time we put it off for another day, hundreds, maybe thousands innocent people die, usually children.

Working for justice, praying for healing, celebrating the beauty of God's creation are signposts. They point ahead to a time when one day, justice, healing and beauty will cover the whole earth. Our vision of the future shapes the way we live in the present.

How should we live?

Let's pray.

Rev. Paul Charbonneau