Looking ahead, realising what is present …
“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.” This inspiring and consoling promise of God’s nearness that is recorded in the Book of Revelation chapter 21, is read and heard at many funerals. This is St John’s vision of the “New Jerusalem.”
With this promise our eyes are cast forward, beyond death and mourning, to the time and place where we are gathered together in the life of the world to come, where the centre of life is the presence of “God with us.”
I was reflecting on this Scripture passage recently, when I realised that this promise of the future “New Jerusalem” is actually a declaration of “more of the same.” God will make his dwelling amongst us in the life beyond the grave, just as God has chosen to dwell amongst us “full of grace and truth” in the person of the “Word made flesh:” Jesus. Our Lord Jesus himself promised, “Surely, I will be with you always to the close of the age.”
The Risen Lord is with us in this life and in the life of the world to come.
So our present trials are not endured alone, as if God has shuffled off to a distant heavenly throne-room. Rather God is with us as our “refuge and strength and a very present help in trouble.”
As I write this reflection for you, there is tragedy across Queensland and New South Wales with the raging bush-fires. God is present in the midst of any strife. Knowing that God is with us, we cry out, “Lord have mercy on us.”
And at this point, the promise from Revelation 21 is most profound. St John’s vision does not only speak about God being present, but it also speaks of God’s gracious action towards us, “God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
We know the God we cry to. This is the God of the cross at Calvary. This is God who is present and who acts graciously towards us. So we hope for “more of the same.” The God who will “wipe away every tear” in the life of the world to come, is the God who will provide all we need to bear the trials of each day.
Please pray for those who are enduring the destructive force of the current bush-fires. Also please pray for those emergency service workers and volunteers who are offering their gifts in service to those in need.