A thought for the Month

The world we live in at the moment seems like a very unstable and uncertain place to live. Perhaps it has always been like that, but when you turn on the news, or read the paper, or browse the news online, what you see can often be worrying and unsettling. Wars… rumours of wars… famines… natural disasters… terrorism… financial instability. There are of course, many good things that are happening in our lives and in our world that rarely make the headlines. It is important to remember that. But there is little doubt that the world as a whole at the moment, is one where our future looks uncertain. As I write this in the middle of August, I am conscious that by the time you read it in weeks to come, the fast paced world we live in will have moved on and situations will have developed. As a church we have been reflecting on the 7 letters Jesus sends to 7 young churches in the Middle East, living in uncertain times, and struggling to see how they can live their lives as people of faith in a fast-changing and unstable world. The message may have been for people 2000 years ago, but there is much that we can learn from it today. What we see as we read the book of Revelation, is that uncertainty and instability have been part of life from the beginning. Chaos and darkness are themes straight from our earliest human moments, from the earliest moments of creation… indeed our very birth into this life is full of darkness and chaos… (and then of course light and colour and noise!) Revelation does not shy away from those realities, in fact it embraces them in the vivid and strange language of Old Testament prophecy. What it highlights to us as Christians is that following Jesus does not give us a ‘get out of jail free’ card when it comes to those more troubling aspects of history, or our lives today. We know that too well… not just from the big events of our time, but the big events of our lives. What Revelation also does though is set those issues, concerns and troubles within the framework of a bigger picture; a greater story. Towards the end of the book we see these words; ‘Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”’ The hope we have as Christians is not in a vague sense of “things can only get better”, but a genuine hope that history is framed not simply as the ongoing human story, but as part of the ongoing purpose of God to bring all things into full and free life. Our hope is in the one who holds the future in his hands. This doesn’t change the reality of how worrying our times can be, but it does set those worries against the backdrop of a world and cosmos that will be renewed and restored to how God created it to be. A place without conflict, famine, disaster, inequality, injustice and death; a place of new birth out of the darkness and chaos of this present reality, into the full life, vibrant colour and exquisite noise of a new reality – the reality we were made for, right there in the very presence of a living Jesus. And that does change how the world looks today.