About hope and longing of the heart - the coming kingdom.
"Do not let your heart be troubled! Believe in God, and believe in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have said unto you, I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:2, Luther)
"And 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. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying, Behold the tabernacle of God with men. And he will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples, and he himself, God with them, will be their God; 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write, for these words are true and certain. 6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to him that is thirsty of the fountain of living water freely. 7 He who overcomes will inherit this, and I will be his God, and he will be my son." (Revelation 21:1ff, Elberfelder)
My dear friends,
the new kingdom. I know how often I have struggled with it, with that sense of put-off. To this day, there is a small, sad part of me. Yes, someday, Jesus, it will be. But when? Paul, he thought you would come again shortly. We think you are coming again shortly, and so many generations before us were convinced that the end times are here, that the time is fulfilled. And again and again, new generations are born, the game of time begins again. A deep sigh inside. A sigh of longing, but also of uncertainty. The new, what will it be like? Will the sea really never exist again? No waves, no salty air blowing around your nose? No starfish, shells on the beach, no low tide, no high tide? No breathtaking sunsets reflected in the endless expanse of the sea? Why, Lord, no sea?
A real hope,a real hope is the prospect of the new heaven and the new earth, of being "transformed in an instant." But I have often wondered how happy I can be in the new kingdom - without my friends, my social environment, for whom I pray, yes, but who do not want to hear about Jesus at all. Without my family. Somehow the image has crept in of standing sadly in the new kingdom, seeing everyone greet their long-dead friends, while I stand there and hardly find anyone.
A good while ago, God showed me a part of the family He intended for me. "It feels like finally homecoming" I wrote to them, whom I will probably never see in my life here.
I wondered why God showed me these people when it seemed so hopeless to grow to love them- for nothing. For no real, real chance to meet them. Too much distance, a different culture, a different language, and yet my heart flew to them as if they were the long lost, forgotten home.
We all know this.
The vacation acquaintances you leave behind with a pensive look. The people you meet and think: Gee, couldn't you live closer to me? Couldn't we share life, belong to each other?
We are limited in this world. Limited by time and space. Limited by our schedules, limited by age, by immobility, by demands and by what binds us. Sometimes, sometimes we break through these limitations for moments and meet, in short heartbeats and moments. We see what could be. We see what would be good. We wish it were those very people who would always surround us. Every day. Because they do us good, because they meet us at a very deep point of our being. Because they make us see Jesus clearly again, because their very existence opens our heart. They inspire us - and we think that we could talk to them for all eternity, just share. We think that for all eternity we could be silent with them, hand in hand, side by side.
It is a precious gift to meet such people. They are not so rare, they are just scattered around this world. Many of them we never meet. Many of them we meet in brief moments and never forget. Many of them we recognize as belonging to us, they carry the same vision, the same longing, the same direction. They go in the same direction.
"In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have said unto you, I go to prepare a place for you?"
It is the secret horror of many Christians that the new kingdom will be a kingdom of eternal worship. We are afraid to let go. Perhaps we feel alienated in the midst of brothers and sisters, inwardly unrecognized and misunderstood. Perhaps we think that singing "Holy, holy is the Lord!" for all eternity is more fitting for religious, pious brothers and sisters than for us. Perhaps we prefer to paint for God. Maybe we love the smell of the summer air, and think: "All this never again, Father? And really? I will be with my community for all eternity? You know, there are so many, many people I would like to meet, but is it really what you promise?
I think the reference that there are many dwellings in the Father's house is a very concrete one. Jesus himself had close friends, those in whom he confided. He had many followers, but only a few with whom he stayed overnight, ate, drank, about whom it was written: "And he immediately loved him".
I believe and I think that Jesus shows us those already here, already now, with whom we will spend eternity. He gives us love for them that is boundless. He shows us where and to whom we will belong, to which "dwelling" he adds us. I believe that we will love all, yes- but will be united with those whose heart we have known and loved. With all those who touched us. With all those with whom for a brief moment the veil of this world broke through. With all those in whom we recognized Jesus - and I believe these are different people for everyone. But when it happens, it always happens on both sides, for a brief moment, a flash, a smile, a moment of closeness that cannot be explained in worldly terms.
I also believe that the world will pass away and in a moment, in the blink of an eye, it will be recreated before us. That we will find ourselves in the home that he has prepared. That there wait all those whom we always meet, with whom we always wanted to share life, and those whom we miss for a long time. I believe that no one will be alone in the new kingdom, but united with those with whom the heart beats in unity. I believe it will be a magnificent mosaic tapestry that spreads out - of diversity and difference, in which the appropriate pieces of the puzzle finally fit together.
To live in God's permanent presence, in a new, created, perfect world, surrounded by those whose stories we are curious about, with enough time, with eternal time to talk, to get to know each other, to eat together, to laugh together, to work together - I imagine it wonderful. I believe that we will keep our stories, as Jesus keeps his scars, and yet, all that is so hard now will be easy. Healed. We will tell our stories with a disbelieving look, how so much suffering was ever possible. Stories about how we sought Jesus. We were found where we recognized him. How it was that he was not there.
And with a sigh of awe, with liberated joy, we will praise him. And in his presence the cry will resound: Holy, truly holy are you, Lord.
May his kingdom come.
With or without sea, with lakes or waves, it will be wonderful. It will be summer. And the tree of life will bear fruit for all those who so often saw death, suffering, pain.
And so I rejoice. About those who meet me, and yet can not come close. About those whose heart beats in unison with mine. About those who belong to my new family, to a wide, big, wonderful family. And so I pray. For each and everyone I recognize. And know that Jesus has long been preparing the homes in which he places us. May the wine bubble in our glasses, the laughter resound, with him among us, in us, around us.
And if you are sad, lonely, wondering if there is a place for you in the future kingdom: Then think of it. Those who smiled at you, those who blessed you, the distant friends, the people who, like little lights, carry the same light as you, the same expression, the same longing. See you. And the day of transformation - it will be a good one.
Be blessed. Maranata.
Sibylle/Daughter of Zion