6th Sunday of Easter
May 26, 2019
Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27
“Something Old, Something New”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior and Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the Second Reading from Revelation chapter 21.
My dear friends,
Are you familiar with the old saying, “something old, new, borrowed and blue?” This popular bridal attire rhyme, which dates back to Victorian times (1837-1901), is really “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in your shoe.” Something old refers to a link with the bride’s family and her old life. Wearing something new is supposed to represent success in the bride’s new life. Wearing something borrowed, which has already been worn by a happy bride at her wedding, is meant to bring good luck to this new marriage. Wearing something blue was considered to represent purity and fidelity. Placing a silver sixpence in the bride’s left shoe was a symbol of wealth, not just financial wealth but a wealth of happiness and joy throughout her married life. Hey man…I’ve done 40 weddings in my career. I’ve seen bride’s and their moms want a whole lot worse, like riding a horse to the altar. I said “No.”
The Christian Church works with the same dynamic; we find special meaning in those words “something old, something new.” We either get comfortable or a little excited about the same “old” things: old hymnals and familiar hymns instead of contemporary worship songs; old liturgies and cherished hymns BUT also using the occasional “new” liturgy and digital screens and digital recording of each service; a blend of “old” and “new” co-existing right here at GSLCS!
But of FAR greater importance of the blending of old and new is the vision that we have today in the Second Lesson from John. John is not shown the old Jerusalem; he’s “been there, done that.” Instead, he sees the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven like a bride comes glorious and radiant. Well…all right! Let’s check out this “new” bride – the New Jerusalem. I have seen brides go to great lengths to look beautiful on their wedding day: hair and make-up done professionally, jewelry, fancy dress, expensive shoes, and so on. Likewise, this new city from God is beautiful…stunning. Look at the words to describe its brilliance: jewels, jasper, crystal, pearls, gold, glass and light. But it is NOT these items themselves that makes this new bride beautiful. Nope. What makes it radiant is the fact that the city reflects God’s glory because God dwells there! This city has no need for a sun or a moon because the glory of God gives it light (21:23). For those who reside there, it is a new, perfect existence over and against our old, current less-than-perfect existence. How awesome is that? A place where nothing ever goes wrong? Sounds like a place we want to be, right? I would certainly think so!
So…what keeps us out? Will everyone be able to enter the new, beautiful holy city Jerusalem? The answer is no. Not everyone gets in. You see, this city is illuminated by the glory of God. He dwells there; He is sinless and we aren’t. That’s a problem. For in every groom, bride, man, woman, and child, there is the darkness of sin and sin is what hinders our dwelling with God; it shackles our ability to love, it restrains our ability to serve and confines our ability to worship as we ought. Sin is what keeps ALL of us out.
What about us? The church? We get in, right? Don’t confuse membership here with inclusion there. We are members of the LCMS – the church on earth – and one day we want to relocate…move in…to the New Jerusalem. Just because you belong here doesn’t mean you automatically belong there. If that were the case, fewer people are getting in every year. From 2005 to 2015, our FLGA district suffered a 24% decrease in Baptized membership – the 6th highest decrease in our Synod. During that same time frame, every single district in the LCMS has experienced losses in Baptismal membership, some as high as 31% (New Jersey District). Churches are not immune to the power of sin. People get old and die, and many members of the LCMS have died and are dying. Members die; churches can die too. For the living, God’s beautiful church can still be filled with fighting and a general malaise that lures its members into complacency – to be content with being content – and, as a result, churches lose their missional focus and slowly begin to die.
So, what DOES get us in? Good question; I’ll answer that question with a question. Did you notice that the new city has 12 gates? Now that’s unique because most ancient cities of the Near East only had one, maybe two gates. And this city doesn’t need protection from outside forces. This city has no need for protection via the walls or gates. The foundations have the name of the Apostles and each gate bears the name of a tribe of Israel – the OT and NT people of God. The walls and gates are not there for protection. They are there to show those on the outside the only way in. To enter the New Jerusalem, only one gate is needed and that is Christ. In John 10:7 Jesus said, “I am the gate for the sheep.” In Matthew our Lord said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (7:13-14). Jesus sets us free from sin’s bondage and stain and sets us free to reside in the New Jerusalem.
Right before He ascended, Jesus told us to “Go, and make disciples of ALL nations.” God desires that everyone gain access (1 Timothy 2:4). He desires that everyone, by baptismal faith, be an eternal resident of the New Jerusalem and have that hope to cling to in the dark times of life; hope for when our earthly relationships fail, hope for when our earthly health fails, hope for when our earthly finances fail, hope for when our plan for a better tomorrow fails.
It’s in these times that this New Jerusalem and our citizenship there would be our hope in difficult and hard times as we get older and older each day knowing that God will make all things new, even ugly, broken sinners like us.
“Something old, new, borrowed and blue.” That makes for a beautiful bride. Thanks be to God that we are made beautifully new, to dwell with Him for all eternity in the splendor of the New Jerusalem – a daily hope old as time itself. Cling to that hope when both old and new fail you, whatever happens or does not happen, knowing every day you walk in His marvelous light confident that your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life – an old, old book promising you life; new, abundant, eternal, beautiful life.