Monday, November 16, 2015

Sunday's Sermon on Psalm 16

Rev. George Miller
Nov 15, 2015
Psalm 16

In honor of Rev. Langdoc being with us today, I’m going to do what he’s known for-tell a joke.

A father and daughter enjoyed a delicious meal at home. They talked, they laughed. After the meal they began to tidy up the kitchen, as was their tradition.

But the father realized he had left the broom outside on the porch. He knew his daughter was afraid of the dark, but he saw this as an empowering, teachable moment.

“Sandy,” he said to his daughter, “Can you please go outside and get the broom off the porch?”

“But Dad,” she said, with a quiver to her voice, “You know I’m scared of the dark.”

“I know, but don’t worry, honey,” he said as fatherly as he could. “Jesus is out there to watch over you.”

Sandy walked to the back door, her heart thumping as fast as it could, so loud she could hear it. Perspiration formed on her forehead.

“It’s Ok,” her father repeated. “Jesus is out there to watch over you.”

Sandy had an a-ha moment. With her hands trembling, she opened the back door, just a crack, slowly slipped her arm outside, gave a little whistle and then whispered “Jesus, could you hand me the broom, please?”

…It’s the day of Pentecost; nearly 2,000 years ago. The city of Jerusalem is abuzz with folk from all over the land.

Peter and the disciples are gathered together. What a month they’ve had. Jesus was crucified, buried, resurrected, and has ascended to the heavens.

It’s been the best of times and the worst of times: death, new life, and a call to play a part in restoring the Kingdom of God.

And “kapooya!” from heaven comes a sound like a rush of wind. Divided tongues like fire rest upon the people. They are filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in ways that everyone can hear and understand.

Those who are present are amazed and astounded, and trying to make logic out of such an illogical event, say “Well, Peter and his buddies must be drunk with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the disciples, speaks up and corrects those who are present.

“Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, listen to what I have to say- we’re not drunk. It’s only 9 am in the morning.

“No, this is a fulfillment of the prophet Joel that in the new age God will pour out God’s Spirit upon all flesh: sons, daughters, old, young, and those who are slaves.”

Peter continues- “listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth who was handed over and crucified has been raised by God, freeing him from death.”

Then Peter goes on to quote from Psalm 16:

“I saw the Lord always before me, for he is my right hand so that I shall not be shaken.

“Therefore my heart will be glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope.

“For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption.

“You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”

This is what would become the first Christian sermon in history, given on the first day of the Christian church.

That’s a big honor for a song like Psalm 16 to have. It is a song that may have meant one thing back when David was King; but it also now means another thing, celebrating Christ as King.

How interesting that on a day in which the Holy Spirit breaks in to do something so radically new, that Peter would feel inspired to use words that were centuries old.

Proof that sometimes the most powerful thing one can do is to honor their roots, and that Scripture has a way of speaking to the past, present and future all at once.

This is another example of regeneration, in which through God something is the same, yet different; different and yet the same.

Even before Peter inspired the masses with his Pentecostal speech, Psalm 16 has had a special place in the Book of Psalms.

Psalm 16 is part of a collection of songs in which the singer has gone through some rough, dangerous patches.

They see God as their refuge, and the one who shows the path to life, no matter who they are or where they are on life’s journey.

Here the singer is able to say, even amidst life’s hardships that they have had enough- “Dayenu”, and they express that their joy, their ultimate happiness doesn’t come from people, places, or things, but from God and God alone.

The singer finds comfort in realizing there is nowhere they can go that God is not, even if they are surrounded by decay or facing the cold reality of death.

No wonder Peter saw this Psalm as a perfect vehicle to pronounce that Jesus Christ is alive and a new day has begun.

There is something else we discovered during Tuesday’s Bible Study- this particular song is extremely body-centric.

The singer states that the Lord is always at his right hand, and that his body rests secure.

Verse 7 is an Americanized adaption of the scripture. It states “In the night…my heart instructs me.” But the real word in the Hebrew text is “kidneys.”

Why? Because that’s where the ancient people believed their conscience was experienced.

Verse 9 in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible reads “My heart is glad, and my soul rejoices.” However, other translations read “My tongue rejoices,” which is what Peter says on Pentecost day.

Psalm 16 is very, very body-centric, with references to heart, kidney, tongue, hand.

Why would this matter? One possible reason is that the body plays an important part of who we are.

Because Christians have been so influenced by Greek thought, we unconsciously have a way of seeing ourselves as three divided parts- body, mind and soul.

However, the people of the Old Testament did not see things this way. They saw themselves as one complete whole, and the body was the vehicle through which we lived, loved and served.

Therefore, faith and spirituality and our experience of God are not just a soul thing, it’s not just a mind thing; faith is a bodily thing.

A faithful life is not just something we feel or think, it’s something we experience and do with our entire being, including our hearts, our hands, our kidneys, our tongues, our feet, our eyes, our skin, our hairs upon our heads.

In fact our faith can even be said to begin in our mother’s womb in which we are knit together and wonderfully made by God.

So to separate us into beings who are body, mind and soul would not fit into the world of the Psalmist, but to present us as organic, cohesive, holistic wholes.

Today, I invite us to use Psalm 16 as a jumping off place to think about our bodily expression of faith.

Our hands. 2 palms, 10 fingers, each with their own unique fingerprint.

In worship we can use our hands to clap and to play an instrument. In fellowship we use them to shake, to hug and to hold.

In mission and service, we use our hands to serve, for example- tomorrow as we hope to welcome over a hundred hungry people into our Shepherd’s Pantry.

Our tongues.

In worship we use them to speak, to sing, to pray. In fellowship we use them to taste and to enjoy the delicious treats prepared for us.

In ministry we use them to speak to another; to offer hope, to present encouragement, to say a prayer.

Our hearts, alive within our chest; pumping and receiving blood throughout our body, sending oxygen throughout our flesh.

How during worship our hearts can seem to soar when we hear a certain song, an uplifting prayer, a message that resonates.

How in fellowship our hearts can experience love and welcome as we meet and greet one another.

How in both mission and care it becomes our hearts that we offer to one another and seem to speak out of; it seems to be our hearts that break when we hear of bad news, or illness or a death.

Kidneys- well I’ll just leave those out of today’s message.

But the point is that church and faith is not just a spiritual reality. Nor is church and faith just about what we think.

Church and faith is a physical reality in which our body is engaged, our body is in fellowship with other bodies, and our body is in service.

Our body becomes a way to not only experience God’s eternal presence, but to share and make God’s eternal presence known here on earth.

So it makes sense that on the day of Pentecost, Peter would feel so inspired to use such a body-centric scripture as Psalm 16 to celebrate the Good News of the resurrected Christ.

As it also makes sense that as we are about to enter the Advent season, Psalm 16 would be used.

Because after all, what is Advent, but a time to prepare to meet Jesus, Emmanuel, which literally means “God Is With Us.”

Emmanuel, God-With-Us does not just mean in the soul, or in the mind, but with us in the body as well.

God cared for us so much, and valued our entire being so much, that God came to us in the flesh, in the person of Jesus.

We experience Jesus not just as a spirit, as a ghost, as an idea. But we experience Jesus as an organic, cohesive, holistic whole.

And I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

God is good; we have no good apart from the Lord. Therefore let us rejoice with hearts that are glad, hands that clap, hold and serve, and with tongues that praise and bodies that are ever thankful.

Amen and amen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Finding Gratitude During Difficult Times

Rev. George Miller
11/10/15 - Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
“Finding Gratitude During Difficult Times”

Good evening. I’m Rev. George Miller, and I’m the pastor of Emmanuel United Church of Christ. It is an honor to be here today.

I give thanks for the opportunity to speak with you, to share some thoughts on the topic of gratitude, and to also hear from you.

Years ago, I read a book which stated that there are basically 2 kinds of prayers:“Help, help, help” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

With that in mind, before we get to the “thank yous”, I’d like to start with “Help.”

As a pastor, I’ve noticed something unique about American people. Americans are raised to believe that it’s important to be strong, to be in control at all times, and to not openly share our emotions when it comes to facing hard times.

To be afraid is a sign of weakness. To be sad is a flaw to be fixed. The expression of honest anger is to be avoided at all costs.

Those who are Christians may feel that if something bad happens to them, and they are afraid, it means they don’t have faith.

To be sad means that somehow your trust in God or Jesus is lacking.

To feel and express anger means you are not following the teachings of Christ.

However, fear, sadness, and anger are not only natural human emotions, but they are Biblical as well.

For example, Psalm 22. It is a song lifted up to God by one who is suffering greatly.

In Psalm 22, the Psalmist states “My God, my God- why have you forsaken me? Why are you far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?”

“O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but find no rest…”

“…I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax, its melted within my breast; my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.”

These are the words of someone who feels abandoned by God; someone so distressed they can’t do anything during the day or sleep at night.

They feel weak, broken and in the dust of death. They are sad, scared and mad.

Psalm 22 is what Jesus said as he hung, nailed and suffering on the cross. Psalm 22 is an example of a prayer that cries out “help, help, help.”

I wonder how many people here have felt like their body is out of whack and their heart is melting like wax?

I wonder how many people here today have had worries that have kept them up all night, and almost comatose during the day?

I wonder how many people have felt mad about their current situation. Mad at their doctor; mad at their bodies; even mad at God.

If so, I want to say that these feelings are natural, and they are OK to have.

Because I believe that it’s not until we can be honest about our fears, sadness and anger that we can move into a place of genuine and life-giving gratitude.

“Help, help, help” is one kind of prayer; “thank you, thank you, thank you” is another.

Now it is my understanding that most everyone here today is living with the reality of a terminal, chronic illness.

It’s not easy, is it?

When someone lives with a chronic condition, it seems as if there is a loss of control and certain things are taken away.

When you live with a chronic illness, time takes on new meaning. First, there is the reality and blunt awareness that you are going to die.

We are all going to die, that’s a fact. But when you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness, that fact takes on new meaning. It’s real. You cannot run away from it or hide from the truth.

Time also warps, have you noticed that? Things begin to revolve around doctor appointments and visits to the lab for blood-work and x-rays.

There is the essence of hurry up and wait. Get to the doctor office 15 minutes early, and then wait 1-3 hours to be seen.

What else takes on new meaning? Sense of self. The body changes. Our abilities change: what we can do and should not do.

Living with a chronic illness can affect our enthusiasm for life and sense of joy. We become so focused on our mortality that the things that use to make us happy, like a birthday or a holiday can bring melancholy, and sad things seem even sadder.

So what do we do? How do we live the days, months, year we have left?

One way to find gratitude during difficult times is to be honest with how we feel. To not be afraid to admit we are sad when we’re sad, afraid when we are afraid, and mad when we are mad.

It is ok to cry out to God “Help, help, help.”

Because guess what- in my opinion doing so allows us to move into a place of peace and acceptance with our situation, and to a place of gratitude, and the ability to find a way to say “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Today we are going to talk a bit about ways to experience gratitude -the ability to live an honest life that includes thanksgiving and happiness even in the face of difficult times.

Why? Because expressing gratitude can be very healing. Expressing gratitude is a way of making the things we feel: sadness, anger, and fear that much smaller.

Gratitude is a form of resilience, in which we are able to survive and thrive in ways we never thought possible.

Now, no one has all the answers on how to live with gratitude. The most I can do is to share 5 things I have learned over the years. We’ve already discussed the first one- being honest about our emotions.

The 2nd thing I can share is an expression that has been around for thousands of years.

It is called “Dayenu.” It is a Jewish word that means “enough” Dayenu is a word that comes from a place of magnificent and humble thanksgiving.

Dayenu is a song thanking God for all the things God had done. It’s a way of saying that even if God had done only one of these things, it would’ve been enough to make us satisfied.

For example, if the only thing God had done was create the world, it would have been enough- Dayenu.

If God had only brought the Israelites out of Egypt, it would have been enough- Dayenu.

If God had only split the Red Sea, it would have been enough- Dayenu.

Dayenu is about counting your blessings and staying grounded, even if it seems as though your life and the world is falling apart.

Let’s do an exercise of gratitude with me. I’ll say a sentence, and after I say the word “enough” I invite you to say “Dayenu.”

If God had only given me life, it would have been enough- Dayenu.

If God had only given me the sun in the morning and the moon at night, it would have been enough- Dayenu.

If God had only given me a beautiful place like Sebring to live, it would have been enough- Dayenu.

Ok; now this one is hard- only respond if you really, really mean it:

If this was my last day on earth, I could die knowing that I have experienced, lived, loved and learned enough.


I wonder how many people feel a sense of gratitude while saying this word?

How many, if even for just this moment, can feel a sense of calm or peace while saying this word?

If so, know that in a moment of gratitude, in a moment of calm, in a moment of peace, there is also the gift of wellness and healing.

How else to experience gratitude during difficult times? I like to look towards my favorite line from my favorite book, called “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker.

It’s about a black, southern woman who goes through some of the most atrocious things you can imagine.

During the course of the book, she begins to find healing and to experience new life.

At one point, her dear friend says to her “I think it upsets God if we walk past the color purple in a field somewhere and we don’t notice it.”

That’s deep. It upsets God if we walk past the color purple and don’t notice it.

A third aspect of gratitude involves the very things that are naturally around us- the beauty of the earth.

Here in Florida we are lucky because we get to see such beauty 7 days a week, 12 months a year, 52 weeks.

Have you ever stopped to notice how green our grass is? How blue our lakes are?

The whites, pinks and purples of the wild-flowers? The orange of the groves?

The browns, blacks and whites of the cows and steers in the pastures?

The red of a cardinal? The yellow of lemons? The coral color of the sky over Lake Jackson during sunset?

Nature, in its very essence, is a jubilant source of thanksgiving. Sometimes when I am feeling down, lost, or lonely, I like to walk around my property, and to touch, see, and to smell, what’s around me.

Ever just place the palm of your hand against a tree and sense how strong it is?

Or think of a color you’d like to see, and go for a walk or a drive, and you notice that color just seems to appear?

-Someone shout out a color you really, really like. Now let’s look around the room, and see where it appears.

How do we feel upon seeing it? Maybe a little more grounded. Perhaps a little more aware that we are indeed surrounded by “enough.” Perhaps a bit more thankful.

Fourth- how to live with gratitude when living with the chronicity of life? This is so simple, but so important: know who you are, and what you like to do- and do it!

For example, I used to be a huge “Golden Girls” fan. Back when it was on the Lifetime channel, it was on in the morning, afternoon and late night.

When I was going to seminary, when I was home sick, when I was unemployed and spent the day trying to get a job, “Golden Girls” became a form of therapy.

No matter how bad the day was or seemed, I could count on that hour of TV viewing to stop everything, lay on the couch, to laugh and to feel good.

Lately though, I’ve realized that I need to go to the ocean once a month; the east coast beaches, like Fort Pierce, where the water’s rough, I can walk along the shore, and hear the sounds of the waves upon the sand.

For me the ocean is where I can’t help but to feel grateful and happy for all that God has done.

What’s something you like to do?

Find a way to do it- it’ll make you feel good.

It also becomes a way you can take back some of the control of your life that is lost when living with a chronic illness.

I’ve talked about being honest with our emotions, finding a way to say Dayenu, noticing the colors around us and doing what we like as ways to live with gratitude.

The final thing I’d like to share is perhaps the hardest thing for many to do- creating time to rest and to do nothing.

That is so foreign to the American culture, but it is scriptural. The Old Testament talks about Sabbath- a day off.

Now a full day of doing nothing may be impossible for most people, but there’s something to be said about taking time to intentionaly do nothing.

When someone is living during a difficult time, it’s so important for the body, mind, and soul to slow down, to stop, to rest and to rejuvenate.

As a pastor I work many, many hours, 6 days a week. But I’ve learned that at least once a week I set aside time to actively, intentionally do nothing.

It’s usually Wednesday. I come home early. Turn off the cell phone. Clean the house, make a cup of tea, put on a cd, journal for a bit, and then take a nap.

Is there anything better in the world than an afternoon nap? It’s even better if you have a dog or a cat or a someone special to cuddle with.

It’s amazing how a 20 minute nap can make all the difference. How it can lower your heart rate, create a sense of peace.

A 20 minute nap clears your head, resets your mood, helps you to sort things out, and to think clearly.

A scheduled nap can also give you back a sense of control.

No matter what’s going on, where you have to go, what medical appointment you have, you can actually have some control on deciding when and where you are going to nap or do nothing.

A nap gives you something to look forward to. My Wednesdays have become a day of gratitude and joyful expectancy, because I know soon I’ll be sipping tea and catching some zzzs.

In conclusion, living with a chronic condition is not easy, and it’s not worth the energy trying to pretend it is.

It’s not worth the energy of pretending you aren’t at times feeling sad, mad or scared.

But living with a chronic condition can be an unusual gift- because you now know for sure that you are going to die, you now have the opportunity to live and to find ways to live that bring you joy and gratitude.

Living with a sense of Dayenu, of having enough, living with a sense of gratitude is something that is healing and life affirming.

When we feel gratitude, when we feel thankful, it can almost create a sense within us that we are well. Not cured, but well.

When we find ways to live with gratitude, we become more real, more whole, more alive and in love with life.

Gratitude has a way of radiating out, and touching those around us, and making them want to be around and with us more.

Gratitude makes us feel good, feel happier, feel as if some hope and control remain.

We may spend half of our life saying “help, help, help” but we can also spend half of our life saying “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

In closing, I have one last thing to share.

In the Gospel of Luke 17: 11-19 there is a story about 10 men living with leprosy.

Jesus enters into a village, and the ten men living with leprosy approach him. They keep their distance, as their bodies are no longer like everyone else’s, and they are seen as unclean.

They cry out to Jesus and say “Have mercy on us.” Jesus sees them and says “Go, and show yourselves to the priests.” As they went, they were made clean.

One of the men, seeing he was healed, turned back to Jesus and gave him thanks.

Jesus said “I healed 10, but only you have shown gratitude and given praise to God. Get up and continue on your way: your faith has made you well.”

Perhaps this is the ultimate expression of how important Finding Gratitude During Difficult Times can be.

Gratitude may not cure us of what we are living with, it may not remove the illness completely, but it can create a sense of wellness, healing, joy and Dayenu.

Gratitude can give us another day, another week, another month, another year to experience and enjoy life to its fullest, until our story comes to an end.

Gratitude can make life all the more worth living.

Amen and amen.

Dayenu-Enough. Sunday's sermon on Ruth 4:13-17

Rev. George Miller
Nov. 8, 2015
Ruth 4:13-17

Greetings, and welcome to Bethlehem, our humble, small town that we are so very, very proud of. I have a story I’d like to share.

In my religion there is a word we like to use, called “Dayenu.” It means “enough.”

Dayenu comes from a place of gratitude and thanksgiving for all the things that God has done.

If God had only created the world, it would have been enough- Dayenu.

If God had only delivered us from Egypt, it would have been enough -Dayenu.

If God had only given us the 10 Commandments- Dayenu.

If God had only brought us into the Promised Land- Dayenu.

Simply put, Dayenu is about counting your blessings, being grounded and grateful for what you have.

I’ve been lucky to say that in my life I have had “enough.” I have a family. I have a plot of land. I have resources I can utilize.

Thank you God. Dayenu.

But not all people are so lucky. There was my relative Eli and his wife Naomi. Many years ago when a famine hit our town, there was not enough to eat.

So Eli and Naomi left and went to Moab, a foreign country in which the people do not look like us or worship the same God.

Things did not go well for them. First, Eli died. Then Naomi’s two sons married foreign wives. Then the sons died, leaving their wives with no children and Naomi with no grandchildren to carry on her husband’s good name.

You must understand the importance of babies and grandchildren to us people.

Children are a promise of the future.

Children are a fulfillment of God’s promise to our ancestors Abraham and Sarah that their family would be as plentiful as the stars in the sky and a blessing to all the families of the world.

As long as there are babies and grandbabies, God’s promises are able to be fulfilled. And who knows which child could turn into the King that unites the people.

Who knows which child could become the long-desired Messiah who will restore our people and turn us back to God.

So when Eli and his two boys died with no children, things looked really hopeless for Naomi and her daughters-in-law.

But eventually, there was good news: the famine in Bethlehem had come to an end, so Naomi decided to return home.

Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law, decided to come with her, pledging that she would never leave Naomi’s side, and that she would become a faithful follower of God.

Naomi and Ruth returned to our humble, small town right as the barley harvest began.

Noami was very sad. She had lost so much- her husband, her sons, any potential of having grandbabies…but she did have Ruth, and as it turns out, that was “enough.”

Although Ruth was a foreigner and came from a different religion, she had so many positive qualities.

She was loyal to Naomi. She was kind with her words and her actions. She was a hardworker.

Ruth would make any mother proud.

Ruth went to the field of our relative Boaz, and began to glean and gather the barley that the farmhands had left behind.

Ruth was diligent. She was not afraid to break a sweat. And apparently so was also quite a looker, because she caught Boaz’s eye.

There was instant attraction between them, and Boaz took extra care to give Ruth special attention and to make sure she was never harmed or mistreated.

It became clear that Ruth and Boaz were falling in love.

But there is a costume in my country: if a woman is left widowed, it is the responsibility of her husband’s nearest relative to marry her.

This ensures she is kept safe, well fed, and with enough. And if the new couple happens to have a child, their child is considered to belong to the 1st husband.

Even though he may be deceased, this ensures that man’s legacy and family tree lives on.

Now, Naomi was not interested in remarrying, but Ruth was.

If you haven’t figured it out, I was the closest relative, meaning I had the legal rights to marry Ruth.

And since there was a parcel of land that still belonged to Naomi, I would inherit the land Ruth came with.

But I am not a greedy man. In the Lord I already have enough- land, a wife and my own kids.

How much more does one man need?

A little piece of earth to call your own; where you can build a home, plant a tree and grow a garden. A wife to love. Children to carry on your name.

I’ll admit that Ruth was a beautiful woman and would make any man proud, but I was not in love with her.

But Boaz was.

So we met, and I gave up my legal right to marry Ruth and to have her land.

That simple act of unselfishness was perhaps one of the greatest things I have ever done, and I am so glad that I did.

Ruth and Boaz were soon married, and sure enough they had a child: a baby boy called Obed.

Obed has brought so much joy into our lives.

The birth of Obed has brought the women in our small, humble town together. They were there in the birthing room when he came into this world. They celebrated and sang songs and gave thanks to God.

The birth of Obed has also brought great joy to Naomi. For so long she had been so sad.

Naomi had endured so much- a famine, leaving behind her home, the death of her husband, the death of her sons, the years of being without a grandchild to carry on her husband’s name.

And now, now there is new life in Naomi’s household. There is the sound of baby gurgling, the sounds of baby laughter, the sight of Obed crawling across the floor.

The comfort he gives to Naomi as she holds him against her breasts.

Now with Obed, Naomi can once again say “Dayenu”, she has enough. She has a grandbaby that will carry on her husband’s name, a child that will carry on his legacy, a child that will carry on the promises of God.

The story of Ruth and Naomi is a reminder of how God is able to work through the most hopeless moments of our lives to bring us hope.

How God is able to take that which seems broken, dead, and destroyed and bring forth new life, regeneration and satisfaction.

How God can take what seems like the final chapter of our life story and say “But wait! There is more! So much more!”

In conclusion, I am thankful for all that God has given me. It has been enough.

I am also thankful that I did not allow greed to get in the way of Boaz, Ruth and Naomi being so happy.

And in regards to Obed- who knows? Perhaps he will be the child from which comes a King that will unite God’s people.

Perhaps from Obed will come the long hoped-for Messiah who will save God’s people and turn them back to the Lord.

That’s the thing about Dayenu and knowing you have enough- it can open up the door for so many, many blessings to unfold.

Amen and amen.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What's WHO Got to Do With It? Nov 1, 2015 Sermon, Revelation 21:1-7

Rev. George Miller
Nov. 1, 2015
Revelation 21:1-7

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.