Nov 4, 2018

“Stewards Of Hope” - Revelation 21:1-7

“Stewards Of Hope” - Revelation 21:1-7

            A guy named Joe finds himself in dire straits.  His business has gone bust, and he's in serious financial trouble.  He's so desperate that he finally decides to ask God for help.   He begins to pray.  "God, please help me.  I've lost my business and if I don't get some money soon, I'm going to lose my house as well.  Please let me win the lottery."  But lottery night comes, and somebody else wins.

             Joe again prays.  "God, please.  Oh please, God, let me win the lottery!  I've lost my business and my house, and I'm about to lose my car as well."  Again, lottery night comes.  And again, Joe still has no luck.

            Once more he prays.  "My God, why have you forsaken me?  I've lost my business, my house, and now my car.  My wife and children are starving.  I don't often ask you for help, and I’ve always tried to be a good servant for you.  So, please, please, please.  Just let me win the lottery this one time so that I can get my life put back in order."

            Suddenly, there is a blinding flash of light.  The heavens open, and Joe is confronted by the very voice of God.  The booming voice says this.  "Joe, I’ve heard your prayers.  But could you at least meet me part way on this?  I mean, could you at least buy a lottery ticket!"

            Today is the final day of our stewardship emphasis.  And we have been on quite a journey.  This morning, we will explore what the author of Revelation has to say to us on this very important subject.  The subject of stewardship and what it means for us to be Stewards of Hope.

            The author of The Revelation of John has some incredible news for us.  News so amazing that we’d probably better hold onto our seats.  Amazing news about a New Jerusalem approaching.  Amazing news about God’s very kingdom coming to Earth.  Truly amazing news that God is on the way.  On the way here.  To actually dwell in our very midst.

            God is the main actor in this story.  God is the one coming to us in power and in love.  But we still have a job.  We still have important work to do.  We can’t just sit back.  We can’t simply remain idle.  No.  Like Joe, we’re called to do our part.  We’re to meet God at least part way on this.

            Let us pray.  Dear God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

            The Revelation of John opens with the author describing in detail something truly spectacular.  Something he was given the honor and privilege of witnessing.  So, brace yourselves.  John shares a pretty spectacular vision.  Just listen.  “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  Yes, a powerful vision of good news indeed.

            And John is writing to some people who are in need of some good news.  They find themselves in a minority movement barely tolerated by a brutal empire.  Some are being persecuted.  And many seem about to give up on it all.  So, John writes to strengthen, encourage, and comfort those going through rough times.  He writes, since he is no longer able to be with them.  He’s been banished to an island sixty miles away. 

            John writes to tell them and us not to give up.  He tells us to remain steadfast.  He reminds us that the empire’s power isn’t absolute.  He boldly declares that it is God who still reigns supreme.  In fact, he writes that God’s very kingdom is on its way to earth.  Decked out with every bell and whistle imaginable.  Overflowing with splendor, beauty and majesty.  And it’s all for us.  What could be more amazing than that?

            Well, there is something else that’s even more amazing.  God is on the way as well.  And God intends to set up permanent residence among us.  Here’s how John delivers this astounding news.  Not fake news, but news he heard in a loud voice coming directly from God’s throne.  Straight from the horse’s mouth.  Here goes.  “See, the home of God is among mortals.  He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.”  Yes, God will be with us.

            God coming down to earth.  To dwell among us.  To live with us.  Just like God came with Jesus.  Only now, God will come in full strength to remain with us full time.  That’s right, God plans to stay.  And we will be God’s people full time.  God will hold out loving arms to all of us.  All of God’s people.  Arms wide open to warmly welcome all of us home.

            And when God arrives, God will roll up the sleeves and get right to work.  God will get down to important business.  John shares, “God will wipe every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

            Truly amazing.  God will love us full time.  Care for us full time.  Watch out for us.  Comfort us.  Draw us close.  Wipe away every solitary tear.  Take away our pains, our sorrows, and our heartaches.  Ease our troubles.  Lift our burdens.  And even get rid of death.  That’s right.  Evil will not win out.  Death will not have the last word.  No, God will win out.  Love will win out.  And all of this will go on full time.  

            The author continues.  He lets us know that all of this can be trusted.  The vision.  The words.  All of it.  Every single bit.  That God is the one behind it all.  That God is trustworthy.  That God is faithful.  That God will not let us down.  That God will not disappoint.  That we can safely put all of our eggs in God’s basket.  The one seated on the throne assures us of this.  God offers us this iron-clad guarantee.  “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Yes, trustworthy and true.

            The author wraps up this marvelous vision with even more beautiful and encouraging words.  “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.  Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”

            So, no matter how discouraging it all seems at times, John tells us this.  God’s kingdom in its fullness is working its way here to earth as promised.  Coming to us and for us.  And the best part, the cherry on top of it all is this.  God is coming right along with it.  Yes, God will dwell among us.  God will live with us.  God will love us.  God will care for us.  Will bless us.  Will bless us with good things.  Will make all things new and fresh.  Will give refreshment to the thirsty.  And will offer the gift of true life to us all.  A dream come true for me and for you.

            The best part is that we’ll no longer be on our own.  We’ll no longer be walking this lonesome valley all by ourselves.  God will be there.  Will welcome us with open arms into a new family.  There, every single day, we will be sons and daughters of God.  There, every single day, we will be brothers and sisters of Jesus.

            And in that family we’ll have parts to play.  We’re expected pitch in.  To help.  That’s what good stewardship is.  Being called to work with God through Christ’s church.  Called to work with one another.  Called to lend a hand wherever we can.  Called to meet God at least part way.

            From “Parade Magazine” comes the story of self-made millionaire named Eugene Lang, and how he ended up changing the lives of a sixth-grade class in East Harlem.  Mr. Lang had been asked to speak to a class of 59 sixth-graders.  But what could he say to inspire these students, most of who would drop out of school?  He wondered how he could get these predominantly black and Puerto Rican kids even to look at him, let alone listen.  Scrapping his notes, he spoke to them from his heart.

            "Stay in school," he admonished.  “And if you do, I'll help pay the college tuition for every one of you."  At that moment, the lives of those students changed.  For the first time they had hope.  Said one student, "I now had something to look forward to.  Something waiting for me.  It was a golden feeling."  And guess what?  Nearly ninety percent of that class went on to graduate from high school.  Hope went a long way.

            Being a steward is about sharing the gifts that we’ve been given.  It’s about giving.  It’s about sharing.  Sharing our time.  Sharing our talents.  Sharing our abilities.  We share what we’ve graciously received.  After all, every single bit of it comes from God.  And God wants us to use what we’ve been given as a blessing.  To use our gifts to bless God’s beloved world.  And in doing so, we help to prepare the way.  Help to signal that we’re ready for more of God’s kingdom to come to Earth. 

            And there are lots of ways we can help out.  Lots of ways we can pitch in.  We can love.  We can care.  Wipe away tears.  Offer smiles.  Share the good news.  Point to God.  Point to Christ’s body, the church.  We can give hope.  Encourage.  Build up.  Give of what we’ve been blessed with.  Be a blessing to others.  Even be a blessing to the world. 

But let’s face it.  On many days, it all feels like a lost cause.  Like an uphill struggle.  Like we’re too small to make any difference.  Like the evils of this world have us out-numbered and over-powered.  But our reading for today hits our negative thinking right between the eyes.  It does this by giving us God’s promise.  By giving us God’s hope.  And by reminding us that this still is God’s world.  Yes, this still is our Father’s world.  And though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.  Yes, God is the ruler yet.  Thanks be to God.  Amen. 

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