A sermon given on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, at the 8am BCP Eucharist and 10.30am Choral Eucharist by The Reverend Peter Jin, Assistant Priest, on Revelation 21:10-14; 21:22-22:5
The second reading for this Sunday is the climax of the entire biblical revelation. We find a detailed description of the heavenly Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down out of heaven to earth.
The image of the new Jerusalem is part of the new heaven and the new earth that God will bring to completion at the end of time — the new creation that brings the first creation to its perfection.
More than half of the world’s population, around three billion people, live in towns and cities. Shanghai, Hongkong, Melbourne, Tokyo, New York, London, are bustling with energy, life and creativity. Cities are places where communal activities and entertainments of all varieties are on offer.
However the city has become a place of many problems: …urban sprawl, …drug abuse, …destruction of the environment, …the gap between rich and poor.
Because of our sins and our limitations, perfect communion is so rare, so hard to achieve.
But the human spirit is structured in such a way our mind seeks the truth. Our will seeks the good and our soul seeks the beautiful.
There is a kind of longing in us. There is an aching, a restlessness that pushes us beyond anything in this world towards a transcendent truth, a transcendent goodness, a transcendent beauty.
Isn’t it true that the most exquisite experiences in life, pleasure, intimacy, relationship, are always accompanied by a certain aching sadness — a sense that there must still be something more. Also, there is always the fear that it may end one day.
In the heavenly city, when we have been raised to a perfect existence, a resurrection life, and when the self-absorption of sin has been washed away, we will celebrate one another’s accomplishments and take pleasure in what we can achieve together.
Life in the heavenly Jerusalem is something like that. In union with the angels and the saints, our minds, wills and energies fully alive and fixed on things above, we will live in interdependently with one another. We will be mindful of Jesus’ words “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
The new Jerusalem in John’s Revelation is a renewed community that “has no need of sun or moon to shine on it”, for it is now God that lights up its streets. This is an image of the city as the place where human nature can reach its ultimate perfection according to Jesus’ promise.
The new Jerusalem is a place of safety and inclusion because its gates are always open. In the new Jerusalem, ‘there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light’, and all nations will walk by that light.
St Paul can say there are three things that last: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love. That is because in the new Jerusalem, faith and hope will have faded away, but love remains.
What I have been reflecting so far says something true and right about heaven, but all fall short of that reality which eyes have not seen and ear has not heard.
In the new Jerusalem, God, the Holy Trinity, wants to share with us God’s own life, and that means the life of love.
The Trinity is an interdependent community. Each fully participates in the life and joy of the other Persons of the one true God, who rules everything in generous and amazing love. In the new heaven and the new earth, it is love that is brought to fulfilment and completion.