Sermon for Sunday, May 4, 2015

Revelation 21:10; 22-22:5

“Why Wait? Healing & Abundance At The Center”

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Cleveland, Ohio ~

Rev. Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Preacher

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God in Jesus Christ is the totality of my life.

River Of Life & Trees Of Healing by Allen V. Harris

River Of Life & Trees Of Healing by Allen V. Harris

That statement, along with this piece of artwork, is the entirety of my sermon today.

But let me take a moment to illuminate both my statement and the artwork I have created.

Last week we looked at the description of the end of time in God’s mind through the vision of John on the Isle of Patmos near the end of his long and faithful life.  In this revelation we saw the powerful image of the city of God – on earth – where God has come down and “dwelt among mortals.”  I declared then that if this representation of the ultimate end of our existence was so wonderful, why wait for it?  What if we “rehearsed the reign of God” and acted as if God had already come down to earth to walk amongst us?

Today’s scripture is quite obviously an extension of that imagery.  It is a splendid portrayal of the details of this awe-inspiring city.  Verses 11-21 in chapter 21 (not read today) are simply a cornucopia of facets of this city of God meant to bedazzle us.  But in verse 22 we begin to get to the heart of what this definitive understanding of God’s reign might be.  I have chosen to sum it up in one statement of faith and one creative image: God in Jesus Christ is the totality of life… and this (point to art on the communion table).

Let’s talk about my statement of faith first.  In verse 22 John explains that “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”  This single sentence should shake the foundations of the Church both because it threatens as well as reinforces our existence.  In the final scene of life there is no need for temple or church or any other religious structure humanity can come up with!  Everything in existence is so saturated with the divine that to create a separate space for “holy things” would be absurd.  Terms like “sacred” and “secular” mean nothing!  This makes the Church of Jesus Christ on earth to be both irrelevant as well as fruitful at the very same time!  We should always keep in mind that our ultimate goal as church is to work ourselves out of a job; to be so successful that we are not needed anymore.  Rather than spinning our wheels trying to figure out how to “survive” and “maintain” our existence, we should be focused entirely upon how to make our mission so incredibly effective that we aren’t needed anymore!

Two other things to notice about this city that I try to capture in my simple statement of faith.  There is no need for an outside light source because Jesus, who proclaimed boldly “I am the light of the world,” is all the light we need.  Again, rather than spending time, money, and resources seeking professionals to give us the light, we should ultimately be trying to find that light source which shines directly upon us!  And we are told that the “gates will never be shut.”  This is such a direct reference to the history of humanity’s wall-building obsession, not just in Israel or the United State’s southern border but every single place that a fence, wall, or a gate has been built, and that eventually and most certainly all the walls we build will be negated when the City of God is made real among us with gates that will never ever be shut.

IMG_3309Now let me turn to the artwork I have created.  In Revelation Chapter 22 we are presented with a stunning visual: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city.  On either side of the river is the tree of life…”  This is my attempt to recreate such an image of the core of the City of God.  In it I wanted to present the heart of what Jesus Christ means to me and how I understand that for this church.  It had to be at the center of the church.  For our tradition, and I believe for the church universal, the Communion table is at the center of our life.  I did not use the table carelessly.  I understand the power it has for many, if not most of us.  That is why it had to be where the river of the water of life flowed.  I have it coming from the cross as the cross symbolizes Christ.  But it doesn’t have to be a gold-plated triumphant cross, it can be any cross at all!  In fact, if we understand the selfless love and suffering servanthood that both the communion table and the cross represent, we will want a variety of crosses to be the “throne” from whence the river of the water of life flows.  And I remind you that all of this takes place not high above us in heaven, but in the City of God come down onto earth.  This is not an exalted kingly Jesus sitting on a lofty throne looking down at all of us peons, but, rather, this is a walk about the city streets, get your hands dirty kind of Jesus.

River of Life & Trees of Healing by Allen V. Harris

River of Life & Trees of Healing by Allen V. Harris

So what I wanted to portray was the river of the water of life and the trees whose leaves are for the healing of the nations at the center of my life, this church’s life, and – ultimately – creation’s life.  And the center of life that is presented in Revelation 22 is abundant!  It isn’t a drip or a trickle.  The leaves are not spiny nor tiny.  The water is the water of life, crystal clear and flowing abundantly!  The trees are rich with fruit and filled with healing powers.  I am reminded of Jesus words in John 10:10: “I have come that they might have life, and life abundant!”

Which begged the question, “What is at the core of my life right now?”  What is it that gives you abundant life, and is it at the center of your life?  I maintain that if you find your place of abundance, that is where Christ is!  All too often we have allowed the church or religious figures to say “THIS IS CHRIST” and tell you from where your abundant life should flow.  NO!  There is no need for a temple to tell you what your abundance is!  The gates are open so you are invited inside!  YOU, and only you, can determine what gives you abundant life, and you will know deep inside you what that abundant life is, and THAT is where Christ is in your life!

One of the reasons I came into this sanctuary on a beautiful Saturday in May to put this piece of art together is because for me, beauty and creativity give me abundant life!  I necessarily live in a world where words and thoughts are preeminent, especially the religious world, and I understand and have accepted that.  I am fine with writing newsletter articles and preaching sermons.  I get more bogged down when it comes to writing letters, or engaging in arguments and debates, at which I don’t do well at all.  But if you want to find the Christ in me, let me find a way to visually and creatively portray it!  It is there that I thrive!!!!  Whether through drama, photographs, music, sanctuary aesthetics, poetry, color, light, sound, or a million jillion other ways… there I am at home.  There is Christ.

But your center, your abundant place, your Christ is your own.  You know where it is because there are always times in your life when you have tasted it… touched it… seen it… known it.  It was when your heart leapt, your blood pumped, your mind raced, your joy swelled… It was your passion and you knew it!

River Of Life & Trees Of Healing by Allen V. Harris

River Of Life & Trees Of Healing by Allen V. Harris

Today I want you to find that place of abundance in your life and make it the center of your life.  If you already have and you do, then thanks be to God, Hallelujah!  You can help others find their river of the water of life, their trees with healing leaves.

And if you are worried that your passion, your abundant place, will be considered unclean, an abomination, false, or accursed… remember that it is not for humanity to judge that, but God, and God alone. The gates of the City of God are always open.  The water of the river of life is bright as crystal. And the leaves of the tree are for healing.  The shame is that the church has spent far too much of its history trying to close those gates rather spending that valuable time trying to find the center of abundance that gives life and healing!  Our primary task is not to prevent ourselves and others from entering the gates, but to find that abundance, and come.  Come bath in the river of the water of life.  Come eat of the fruit of the trees of healing.  Simply come.  And there… And there… THERE is Christ.