From the Garden to the City,
Trees along the way
(c) Copyright 2007 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Revelation 22 NIV
We have come to our last sermon in this series “From the Garden to the City - Trees along the Way.” We have journeyed from paradise, through the fall into sin into incredible trouble, the curse hounding humanity on every side, to the promises made under the trees Moriah, to a small branch that grew from the stump of Jesse to the promise kept on a tree outside a city with a history of murder to a foretaste of the city in Pentecost and the church, and finally we come to the city, the city of God, the New Jerusalem. The city of God is here, but it is not yet. Because we have tasted of it through the power of the Spirit, we are thirsty people, thirsty and longing for the city that is to come. We have not seen it yet, but we will, and to help us look to our future, God gives us these last visionary passages of scripture to excite our imaginations, inflame our hopes and solidify our faith filled confidence in what he has in store for us.
And to help us see the future, the Lord reminds us of the best of our past, the worst of our past absent in the future, the best of our understanding of the Psalms, the best of our understanding of creation, the best of our understanding of our experience of God in our lives today.
To help us see the future, the Lord reminds us of the best - first of the past - the past called paradise.
As the garden of Eden was pictured with great rivers flowing through it, rivers that were clean and pure, life giving to everything that drank from them, so to this city has the river of the water of life flowing through it - giving life to everyone who drinks of it. In the past number of months as we have looked at some of the different places that our members have gone to do ministry, we have seen how water can be pools of disease and death, rivers can be life threatening - here in this city, the river is clean and pure because it comes from the throne of God, where everything is in order, where God rules, where his creative Holy Spirit pours out blessing after blessing.
And in this Garden stands the tree of Life, and this time the tree of life is not one single stem, but it has multiplied, it grows on both sides of the river of life. As we have found, the tree of life represents Jesus, the Word of God, the Wisdom of God that is life giving. Here, this tree unlike the trees we know that give fruit only once a year, this tree gives it every month, manna provided again and again that will not spoil, the power of God to bring healing not just once in a while, but every month, God always ready to reach out and touch his people, to heal their brokenness, to restore their joy and wipe away their tears and this not only for individuals, but for whole communities, even nations whose wounds multiply our own many times over.
In this picture that John paints, we are invited to look to our past in paradise, and not only see paradise regained, but paradise multiplied again and again.
No longer will there be any curse.
John challenges us to use our imagination - dream what it would be like if the curse no longer existed. If child birth no longer caused pain both literally and figuratively. If the earth no longer rebelled against our authority and thorns and thistles grew only where we wanted them to. Murphy’s law will no longer apply, anywhere. The power of evil will no longer work behind the scenes. Rust will not corrode. Theft will not happen. Even death will be gone. We know that right now, even the curse of death has been defeated. It can’t separate us from our loved ones for more than a 100 years. It has been defeated on the cross, and in faith we look forward to being with our loved ones when we go to meet the Lord. Just imagine the day when death can no longer separate us from our loved ones, even for one day. What joy there will be. Dreaming of the day that the curse will be gone is worthy itself of a sermon, for today, we get a taste.
To those hungering for the Kingdom, for the King, this will truly be the paradise of God for the Lamb will be in the city. We will finally see Jesus, hear his instructions with perfect and particular clarity. We will have the joy of seeing his face without being consumed, without being overwhelmed with his holiness for we ourselves will be holy, belonging to the Lord, in all of creation his favored children. His radiance will be on our faces, never fading. That we live in the presence, the home of the living God will be obvious on our faces, like his name written on our foreheads. And the Lord who is our light, our salvation, the guide to our pathway, will dispel all night. No more darkness in which sin hides. No more secrets in which evil thrives. No more confusion in life’s direction, no more fear for what future our choices may hold or what the morning may bring, no more loneliness, no more... for darkness means all these things. He will be our light, brighter than the sun and with no darkness and no curse, the only thing left is that we will be with the Lord we will reign forever and ever.
John tells us to look at the best
we could ever dream and multiply it times at least 12.
But there is one more best that
John invites us to look at and that is the best of our experience of
God. And the best of our experience of our relationship with God is all
in that one word “Come!”
You see the word “Come!” is the heart of the whole gospel. The word Come is what all true religion is about. We so often get confused as to what it means to be a Christian. We get confused like the pharisaic leaders of Israel did. We turn religion into a series of commands. Do this. Do not do that. Expectations that rule our lives and drive our behaviours. A system of laws that make s for a good presence of God qualified person. We are driven by that religion and we cannot afford to rest because we must perform for God, for expectations, for law, for others, for our reputation.
That is not what the entire Bible is about - and John makes it very clear with this concluding refrain - “Come!” You see the word Come is a shepherd’s word to his sheep. Come is invitation free to all who will receive. “Come!” is a grace filled journey of life giving fellowship with God. No demands, just - whoever wants to, whoever wishes, whoever is hungry and thirsty for God. And it is whoever. You do no have to have it all together to come, the weakest, the most broken, the deepest sinner, the poor, the rich, the unintelligent, the professor, the leader and the slave, man and women, black and white, the word is “whosoever.” Everyone here qualifies in the whosoever category. The only issue is do you thirst, do you want to come. This is the requirement to an absolutely free invitation. This is the heart of true religion. Do we want to come? Do you want to come?
That is what church is all about.
“Come!” Come along. Join with us. And the focus of
our desire, our hunger our thirst promises that soon, very soon, he in
whom all of creation finds its meaning, the Alpha and the Omega, the
Beginning and the End, he will come soon.
the Garden to the City - Trees Along the Way
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.