Rev. George Miller
Nov. 1, 2015
There’s a British TV program that’s been on for 50 years that I’m just now watching, called “Doctor Who.” It’s a science-fiction show about an alien who can travel through space and time.
The brilliance of the show is that the Doctor has the ability to regenerate. What that means is that every few years, the Doctor goes through a cosmic-like shedding of his exterior to become a new-looking version of himself.
Because the Doctor can regenerate, they can have different actors play the same character and bring with them their own nuances and skill sets, which keeps the show and the story-lines feeling fresh and new.
The Doctor regenerates after he has experienced an intense time of chaos, destruction or near death.
Like a Phoenix, he emerges, renewed and regenerated, ready to go on, to care for, look after and to love all of creation and the cosmos in the universe.
The thing is that after the Doctor regenerates, he is very different, yet the same. He is the same, yet different.
Very heady stuff that may not make sense upon hearing about it, but after you see enough episodes, you know it, without fully knowing it.
I see this same sense of regeneration taking place in today’s reading from Revelation, in which we hear about a new heaven and a new earth as the old earth passes away.
Revelation is a fascinating book, one that too few people read, and many others seem scared by.
There are many interpretations about Revelation. Some say it’s a book about the future end of the world, with descriptions and signs of how the world will end.
Some say Revelation is a book written during a time of severe physical and spiritual crises, in which the events alluded to in the book were actually poetic, metaphorical illusions to the very real events the author and the people were facing.
Or, you can say Revelation is a book written to address current strife and to foretell how the world will end.
No matter how you choose to approach Revelation, it is a timely book, speaking to folk today as much as it did 2,000 years ago.
I’ve been listening to people in the congregation over the past few months. It seems with the national and world events, folk are feeling a bit more scared than usual.
People seem to be more unsure; worried about the present and the near future.
That sense of dread seemed to begin with the murders at Immanuel Church, then continue with the school shootings, the recent earthquake in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and now the worries over China and Syria, not to mention the recent bomb-threat in our own town.
It’s so much, that in many ways I have found myself becoming numb, because to absorb it all can simply be too much for the heart to take.
I myself have to admit that lately things do feel rocky in the world. Statistics may say that we are living in the safest time in human history, but we don’t feel that way.
There’s almost a sense hovering over the world that either everything is coming to an end, or there is some kind of dying and fading away of the old so that something new, something different can break in.
Perhaps there’s been all this recent chaos, destruction and war because the world is getting ready to regenerate into something better, something healthier, something safer, something more.
Perhaps our world is ready to become something different, yet be something the same, like Doctor Who.
Now the truth of the matter is there have always been chaos, destruction and war. The truth is all throughout time, different people and different places have all experienced some kind of apocalypse.
The earliest Christians during the time John wrote Revelation were experiencing an apocalypse. As did those in Europe who experienced the Black Plague.
The slave trade was an apocalypse upon the African people that lasted over 300 years.
Sherman’s march through Atlanta which left plantations, homes, and forests burned to the ground surely felt like an apocalypse to those living in Georgia.
The Jews and Gypsies killed during the Holocaust before being set free from American soldiers.
The AIDS epidemic in the 80’s and 90’s.
The current plight of Syrian refugees.
Modern day Christians being attacked and killed in the mid-east by extremists.
These are all horrible events that must have felt like the end-times for those going through them.
Then there are the apocalypses we can face on a smaller, more personal level.
Those hit hardest by the recession who watched towns die out as factories closed, jobs were lost, houses foreclosed and families left homeless on the street.
Anyone who has gone through the death of a loved one, or is going through a death right now, has faced their own personal apocalypse, in which they witness changes, hopelessness, legal hurdles and the reality of how to pick up the pieces afterwards.
Those who are dealing with their own personal health related issues, in which one is confronted with their mortality, and the reality of physical bodies and minds that break down.
In any of these situations, it can feel as though the stars are falling from the sky, the moon has turned blood red, and that beasts are rising from the turbulent sea.
In any of these situations, it can feel like innocence is being swallowed up, and you’re facing the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse who are busy killing, destroying and creating chaos.
When these moments happen, where these personal apocalypses occur it is only natural to ask “Where is God?” and for it to feel as though God is really, really far away.
The beauty, the power and the majesty of Revelation is that it presents the most horrifying of situations, and says that God is indeed present, God is indeed here, and that ultimately God will dwell with the people.
Ultimately, this book, this particular scripture that we heard today, is one that’s designed to give us hope, to give us much needed reassurance, to give us something to hold onto.
Revelation 21 is designed to say to all people, of all places and all times “All this that you are going through, as bad as it seems, will pass.”
“It will stop. It will regenerate. God will be present because God has always been here.”
“God will be present in a way you can’t even imagine right now. God will be present beyond war, beyond disaster, beyond chaos, beyond strife.”
Ultimately, Revelation 21 assures us that God is indeed with us, right beside us, to wipe away our tears, to end our mourning and our pain.
So, in the meantime, hold on. Have hope. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t let go.
Don’t let signs, horsemen, beasts or falling stars make you lose your focus or to lose your faith.
But look towards the cross.
Better yet, look beyond the cross and remember that we are Easter people; we are children of the Resurrection.
To remember that Christ is not dead, but is risen and alive, and that Christ is still speaking to us.
As Easter people, as Christians, in our faith and in our hope we get to experience regeneration. We experience something new.
Not exactly the same as before; never exactly the same as before because the old always passes away.
Because in Christ we experience something different, yet familiar.
In Christ, God is doing something new, like when God created the world.
Just like when God did something new by setting the Israelites free.
Just like when God did something new by resurrecting Christ.
Therefore, God can do something new in our lives, in our community, throughout the cosmos, and in our world.
Trouble does not last always, but in our faith we are regenerated and set free to experience God anew.
Amen and amen.