We are going to continue with our series on Revelation which we started on April
- There was a two week break in there because two weeks ago we had a guest speaker
for our anniversary worship and then, last Sunday, I was away because our oldest son got
married. But today we are back to Revelation and we will continue with it for two more
Sadly, today we are looking at Revelation through the lens of yet another mass
shooting in the United States. I know that it happened in Texas and this isn’t Texas but it
touched us all. We were shocked by the immensity of the massacre. Nineteen children
ages nine to eleven gunned down in an unfathomable act of cowardice. Two teachers
killed. The shooter’s grandmother killed and, of course, the shooter himself.
Such tragedy. Such needless destruction. A reminder that evil is alive in the world
and that, while Satan has already lost, he is still active and deadly.
But sadly, the shooting at Robb Elementary School was just one more senseless
shooting in a very long string of school shootings. This year already, there have been 27
school shootings in the US. In 2021, there were 34. 2020 was a good year; there were
only 10. In both 2018 and 2019 there were 24. That’s 119 school shootings in the past
In comparison, in Canada, in the last five years there have been no school
shootings. We have to go back to La Cloche, Saskatchewan in 2016 to find the last one.
In fact, since 1989, there have been exactly six school shootings in Canada beginning
with the one at Ecole Polytechnique. We can all agree that six is too many but it is a far
cry from the hundreds of school shooting that have occurred in the US in the same period
of time. And it’s not as though Canadians don’t own guns. Canadians rank 7 th in the world
in gun ownership but we don’t go around shooting up schools.
Maybe that’s because there are two main differences between the two countries.
The first is that while we have the right to own guns, we don’t have the right to carry
them around. The second difference is because we have reasonable and enforceable
restrictions on gun ownership.
And we wonder what is wrong with the American gun culture? Why can’t
politicians and national leaders fix it? How many more children have to die before this
problem is taken seriously? The truth is that no political party wants to tackle this. The
Republicans south of the border have traditionally been strong supports of the 2 nd
Amendment. The Democrats claim to want to curb gun violence and they love to blame
the Republicans. But what have the Democrats done? During President Obama’s first
term, they controlled all three levels of government but what did they do? Nothing really.
They currently control all three levels again – albeit with much slimmer majorities – but
what have they done? Nothing really.
The truth is that this is such a hot button issue in the States that no party really
wants to tackle it. That’s because so many Americans of every political stripe carry
handguns. You get up in the morning and head out the door. But before you do, you make
sure you have your wallet your car keys and your gun. As Canadians, we simply don’t
understand that mentality. We do not understand a constitutional amendment that excuses
the massacre of children. From our standpoint, no one other that law enforcement officers
should have the right to cart around in the purse or backpack an item that can snuff out so
many human lives in so little time. It’s just wrong.
We will pray for those families who have lost loved ones. We will pray that
political leaders will find the courage to finally speak up for justice. And we will pray
that God’s intervention will bring healing to devastated families and communities.
THE NEW JERUSALEM
It is within that context that we turn again to the book of Revelation. Today we are
going to fast forward to the last two chapters of Revelation. Revelation 21 and 22 are
different from the rest of the book of Revelation. While most of Revelation properly
understood is a discipleship manual which tells the faithful how to live in times of
persecution, the last two chapters are pure end times. They are a description of what we
can expect in eternity if we remain faithful to Jesus Christ in this life.
Remember too that being faithful for the early Christians who first read Revelation,
came with a cost. They were expected to bow the knee to Caesar and worship him as a
god which was difficult because they believed in only one God, and it wasn’t Caesar. But
not worshipping Caesar could result in serious persecution and hardship.
This created a division in the church where some people remained faithful to God
while others did not. And so each had to make a choice. Would they compromise and
bow the knee to Caesar or would they remain faithful and overcome? The answers to
these questions are important because they have eternal consequences.
Revelation 21:1-6 is about the coming of the New Jerusalem at the end of time. It
begins like this in Revelation 21:1 (NIV):
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first
earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
What does that mean? First of all, it tells the Christians of Asia Minor that their suffering
will not last forever. Ultimately, God will intervene and make all things right. God will
restore justice. God will restore peace. Ultimately, God’s love will prevail. That’s what
the New Jerusalem is all about. It is about God making all things right. There will be a
new heaven and a new earth because the old heaven and earth with their injustice and
suffering will be replaced by something better.
And then it says that there will no longer be any sea. Let me explain that. The sea
is not referring to what you might think. It is not referring to a body of water such as the
Mediterranean Sea or the Sea of Galilee. It’s referring, rather, to the sea in the temple in
the original Jerusalem. That sea was a large copper basin that was placed in the Temple.
It held the water that the priests used to purify themselves before attending to their
priestly duties of making the sacrifices that were intended to please God. This basin was
called a sea because it was huge. It was two and a half meters high and had a
circumference of almost fourteen meters. It held over 60,000 liters of water.
But why is there no sea? The reason there is no sea in the New Jerusalem is
because there is no need for the sea. There is no need for priests to purify themselves
before making the ritual sacrifices because there is no need for sacrifices to cover the sins
of the people. That’s because, in the New Jerusalem, there will be no sin. There will be
no injustice. No one will treat others differently because they don’t look the same or have
the same languages or advantages. And no parents will have to fear for the safety of their
children while they are in school. Everything will be as God intended it to be from the
beginning. God’s justice and God’s peace will reign. That’s why the sea isn’t there.
We move then to Revelation 21:2 (NIV) which says:
I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from
God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
This is really interesting because it contradicts some very common assumptions that exist
in the Church. If I were to ask almost any group of Christians to describe what God has
planned for us at the end of time, I expect that most of them would say that we all go up
to heaven. But is that what this verse says? It does not say that we go up to heaven. It
actually says the exact opposite. It says that heaven comes down to us. That’s what the
New Jerusalem is all about. The New Jerusalem is heaven coming down to us as God
creates a new earth.
That’s significant. It’s also consistent with the way we have seen God work in the
past. God has never expected us to go to him. God has always come to us. We see that in
Jesus. When we were lost in our sin and unable to save ourselves, God came to us in
Jesus, born in the little town of Bethlehem. One of his names is Emmanuel, which means
“God with us”. The coming of the New Jerusalem is the same thing. It is God coming to
us because we cannot go to God. As God came down to us in Jesus, so too heaven comes
down to us in the New Jerusalem. God comes to us because we cannot go to him. It’s the
way that God has always worked for us.
GOD DWELLS WITH HUMANITY
And now Revelation 21:3-4 (NIV) says this:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling
place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be
his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will
wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or
crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Up until now everything has been seen. John saw the new heaven and the new
earth. He saw the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. But now he also hears. He
hears a voice coming from the throne. And the voice says, “Look! God’s dwelling place
is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.”
From where does the voice come? The voice comes from the throne. In fact, it is
the voice of the one who sits on the throne. But who sits on the throne? Whose voice is
it? We’ll find out in a few minutes so stayed tuned.
Before we go there, what does the voice do? It verifies verbally what John has
already seen with his eyes. John saw heaven coming to earth in the New Jerusalem. Now
John hears the voice saying that God’s dwelling place – which we call heaven – is now
among the people on earth. God has come to us and God will dwell with us.
And what will God do? God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no
more death or mourning or crying or pain. All of those things that the early Christians
experienced at the hands of their Roman persecutors will come to an end. The suffering
will cease. The pain will cease. The mourning will cease. Why? Because God comes to
us in the New Jerusalem and, in the New Jerusalem, peace and justice reign. The old
order of things has passed away and the new has come.
Then the voice continues in Revelation 21:5 (NIV):
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then
he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Once more this is an affirmation of what has already been said. It has already been seen
and it has already ready been heard. So why say it again? Because it’s important. It so
important that it needs to be repeated. It needs to be repeated because it is the most
important message that there is. In the end the troubles of this world will pass away.
There will be a new heaven and a new earth. The old one will go and the one new will
come when heaven descends to earth in the New Jerusalem. The sin of the old heaven
and earth will be replaced by the peace and justice of the new heaven and earth. John sees
it and John hears it. He writes it down so that no one will miss it. This is important. It’s
important enough to see and to hear.
It’s the most important message there is especially to people who are going
through suffering and persecution because it tells them that their suffering will cease and
the persecution will cease. It’s not saying that it will necessarily cease in this life because,
as has become clear to us this week, we live in a fallen world. But it will end because the
New Jerusalem will descend from heaven and make all things new.
HE WHO SITS ON THE THRONE
And now we get to the final verse for today. In Revelation 21:6 (NIV) we read this:
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and
the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the
water of life.”
This is the same voice that came from the throne and this verse contains some hints about
who it is. The hint is in his description of himself. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the
Beginning and the End,” he says. The phrase Alpha and Omega shows up two other times
in Revelation. It appears in Revelation 1:9 and in Revelation 22:13. In both of those
instances, the speaker says that he is the Alpha and Omega. But who is it? It is Jesus.
Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. Jesus is the first and the last, the Beginning and the
End. It is he who sits on the throne in the New Jerusalem. It is he who will reign forever
in justice and peace for all of God’s people.
“It is done,” he said. What is done? Persecution is done. Imprisonment is done.
Hatred is done. Killing is done. Fear is done. Why? Because ultimately, Jesus wins. The
New Jerusalem comes down bringing heaven to earth. And Jesus, who sits on the throne
makes all things new.
And to the thirsty he gives water without cost from the spring of the water of life.
Jesus tells us that all who are thirsty can come to him and he will satisfy their thirst. If
they thirst for justice, they will find justice. If they thirst for righteousness, they will be
made righteous. If they thirst for forgiveness, they will be forgiven. If they thirst for
hope, they will find hope. And it will cost them nothing. It will be a free gift of God
through Jesus. When we could not save ourselves, Jesus saved us. When we could do
nothing to pay for our sins, Jesus paid for them on the cross. When we could not defeat
death, Jesus rose from the grave, broke the gates of hell and the chains of sin so that we
could be alive with him forever more in the New Jerusalem.
In the end, Jesus wins. In the end, New Jerusalem comes down from heaven to
earth. And all who put their faith and their trust in Jesus Christ who sits on the throne will
join with the great multitude dressed in white and the elders and the angels. And together
they will give praise to Jesus who is and who was and who is to come. The Alpha and the
Omega, the Beginning and the End. It is done.
And here, at the end, is the important part of this message today. We need to
understand that what Jesus promises at the end of time is already with us here in the old
heaven and the old earth. Jesus does not wait until the end of time to make a difference
for his people because even now he sits on the throne of heaven. He may not yet have
come down from heaven but Jesus still reigns and he calls us to work for him right now.
But what does that mean today in the wake of the recent mass shootings in Uvalde,
Texas? Perhaps it is a word of hope. Sadly, nothing that we can do will bring back the
children and teachers who were gunned down on Tuesday. I have never been in the
position to experience the death of a child. And I pray that I will never be in that position.
Some of you have been there and my heart goes out to you now because you do
understand this in a way that most of us never can.
Nonetheless, in the wake of this tragic loss, Jesus offers hope. To the thirsty he
gives water without cost from the spring of the water of life. He said this to Christians
2,000 years ago who were going through persecution. He offers the same living water to
So what are you thirsty for? What do you need? Is it love? Is it grace? Is it peace?
Is it forgiveness? Is it patience? Is it understanding? Is it the assurance that someone
cares about you more than you could ever imagine? Maybe today we are all thirsty for
justice, the kind of justice that starts as a ripple in the water that Jesus offers. And this
ripple builds momentum and ripple is added to ripple and the power of God brings it all
together until it becomes a mighty raging river of justice that pours like a great deluge
upon the NRA and weak kneed politicians and pushes them aside so that the light of
Jesus’ eternal reign can shine upon the earth even now. And in that reign children can go
to school in safety and parents will not have to wonder if they will come home. And there
will be no need for armed guards at school entrances because things of the old earth have
been replaced by the things of the new.
In this world, Jesus’ life giving water empowers faithful people to bring the power
of God to our homes and our communities and our schools. It is what we are called to do
as followers of Jesus Christ. We are called to make this world a better place to be. We
may not be able to complete the kingdom of God here on earth but we catch glimpses of
it in what we do and how we make a difference even now.
Finally, I believe that, by the grace of God, the New Jerusalem will descend upon
the earth and those parents who are grieving because they lost their children this week
will see them again and they will be together for eternity forever where there will be no
more hatred or fear or sickness or sadness or death. And all things will be made new.
The New Jerusalem may not be here yet but we know from Revelation what it will
be like. And it is up to us to build an image of that great city here on earth even now.
“It is done,” says Jesus. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says Jesus, “the
Beginning and the End. Come and I will give you water without cost from the spring of
the water of life.” All those who are thirsty, come to Jesus and receive.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Holy God, we come before your throne with hearts full of praise for all of your
great deeds and wonders. Thank you that we can come to you, that through Jesus Christ
we are your adopted children and inheritors of your eternal promise. We thank you for
the beauty of creation as it unfolds around us. Thank you for budding trees and warm
spring days. Thank you for colours, breezes and new life.
We are so grateful that we are valuable in your sight. You have called us and made
us for specific purposes. You have chosen us and set your purpose within each of us.
Enable us to comprehend, understand, and fulfill that purpose, knowing that if we
accomplish anything it is only through your Wonderful Spirit. Because you live, we also
We pray for your healing presence in a world of pain and suffering. We say a
special prayer for the people of Uvalde, Texas who are just the latest victims of gun
violence in the US. Give them peace but also give them to courage to act so that this
slaughter may come to an end.
We lift up in prayer the sick of our congregation and community. We remember,
especially Mark, Carol, Hazel, Rachel and Ron. We would pray that your Healing Spirit
would descend upon him and all others who need your touch, offering hope and light
both for now and forever.
We also for your grace to rest upon the family and friends of Ralph Shilton who
died in February but will be remembered this weekThank you God that any pain is over
and that he is resting in your peace.
Heavenly Father, it is our greatest desire to exemplify your love and character, not
only in what we say, but in everything that we do. We want our lives to be so much more
than just talk. We would be bold to ask that you would enable us to be constant and
consistent examples of your healing and self sacrificing love.
We raise these prayers in the Holy Name of Jesus. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
May 29, 2022 / Easter 5
Psalm 23; John 10:22-30; Acts 9:36-43; Revelation 7:9-17
CALL TO WORSHIP
God is our Shepherd;
God is our Saviour;
Let us lift our voices to the Lord;
We will praise the One who was and is and is to come.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Hear our prayers, O Gracious God, as we come into this house of worship. The murmurings of our souls
cry out to you for you are the One who gives us hope, both for now and into the future. Speak to our
hearts. Touch our lives with deepest blessings. Enliven our spirits to experience your Word, that we may
be transformed into images of your love. Come, Lord Jesus, come and flow over us with the sweet
waters of life. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
We confess, O God, that we are not perfect. Our motives are seldom pure. Our vision is often clouded.
We place our hope in the transitory things of life and dream of fleeting fame. Forgive us, Merciful One,
when we do not keep our minds focuses on you and the things of your Holy Kingdom. Turn us around,
once more, that we may walk in your way. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
When we stray, there is one who calls us home. Jesus is our Shepherd. He is the One who laid down his
life for his sheep. We are his sheep and we can have complete confidence that when we confess our sins,
we are truly forgiven.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
Receive our offerings, Generous God, in the same spirit in which they are given. We could never match
your generosity but we give what we can, when we can. We thank you for all of your great goodness.
The time has come to leave this place and venture out into the world beyond these four walls. Always
remember that no matter where we go, God is there. The hand of God is upon us. The love of God is