Today’s scripture from the book of Revelation is about God’s eternal promise to make all things new. To understand the context of this promise, there are a few things you need to understand about the book of Revelation.
First, Revelation is part of biblical writing known as apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic literature was written using future tense language and symbols to offer encouragement to people of faith who were encountering persecution in the present.
Second, Revelation is the story of God’s ongoing interaction with God’s creation. When John wrote about the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, God wiping away every tear, no more mourning or crying or pain anymore, he was speaking about God’s ongoing presence in the story of creation. There is a Latin phrase that speaks to God’s ongoing creativity that began with God saying “Let there be light” in the first story of creation in the first book of the Bible and God saying, “I am making all things new” in the last book of the Bible. That phrase is creatio continua. Creatio continua witnesses to God’s continuing presence in creation as God makes all things new.
Uptown Church in Uptown Chicago has a statement on their church website that witnesses to God’s continuing creativity in our lives: “No matter the current chapter, the end of your story is not yet written. “
Tom Tarrants, former Ku Klux Klan member, and terrorist, was once known as “the most dangerous man in Mississippi.” In an article entitled, “Is Spiritual Transformation Really Possible?” he wrote about the story of his life. As a white teenager in the deep south, he came of age in the early 1960s just as the civil rights movement was gathering momentum. He became very angry about the changes in his high school and began to read racist, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in literature that was being circulated on campus. Soon he met those who were distributing the material. This led to a process of indoctrination into far-right ideology that would eventually have tragic consequences for others and for himself. His anger grew into hatred. By his early twenties, his hatred led him to become involved with the most violent right-wing terrorist organization in America at the time, Mississippi’s White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. As an operative for the White Knights, Tarrants was reportedly involved in some 30 bombings of synagogues, churches, and homes before being apprehended in an FBI sting operation in Meridian, Miss.
One night, an accomplice and he were confronted by a police SWAT team as they attempted to bomb the home of a Jewish businessman. His accomplice was killed, and he was so badly wounded that his doctors gave him only forty-five minutes to live. Miraculously he survived his injuries and was later tried and sentenced to thirty years in prison. About six months after entering prison, he escaped with two other inmates, intending to resume his activities. A couple of days later, another SWAT team found him and his accomplices, one of whom was killed in a barrage of gunfire. Back in prison, he was confined to a six-by-nine-foot cell in the maximum-security unit. To escape the boredom of being locked up alone twenty-four hours a day, he began to read almost continuously. Eventually, his reading took him to the New Testament. Through reading the Gospels, he discovered the truth he was seeking for his life in the person of Jesus Christ as he was drawn particularly to these words of Jesus: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”
Among the scripture passages that he grew to treasure was the following from II Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come”
Two years of extensive daily Bible reading and the study of Christian classics helped Tarrants develop a solid foundation in the faith. After serving eight years in prison, a near-miraculous set of circumstances opened the door for him to be released from prison to attend the University of Mississippi. Later, Tarrants found out that the wife of an FBI agent involved in his capture had been praying for his salvation for two years. After his conversion, the FBI agent and his wife, along with others who had been the targets of his hatred, were instrumental in securing his release after eight years in prison. At the age of twenty-nine, he was now eager to prepare himself to serve God in some way, and he gave himself to his studies with diligence. Tarrants earned college and seminary degrees and served in various ministry positions, including a co-pastorate, and president of the C.S. Lewis Institute.
Writing about the spiritual transformation he experienced in his life, Tarrants states, “It has been almost fifty years since I met Jesus in that prison cell. Over those years, God has been steadily working in my life, helping me to change — to become more like Jesus. It hasn’t been quick, and it hasn’t always been easy. There have been temptations, trials and tribulations, some of which I overcame and others I failed. There have been ups and downs, twists and turns along the way. And there have been painful sorrows to endure. But through it all, there have been many joys and blessings from God’s generous hand. (God’s) grace has truly been sufficient for me. And (God) has patiently, lovingly kept calling me to ‘come further up, come further in.’ I still have a long way to go, for it is a lifelong journey, but I am thankful for the progress made thus far by God’s grace.
“Is Spiritual Transformation Really Possible?”, C.S. Lewis Institute, Knowing and Doing, Fall 2019 https://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/7390
All things new – the story of God’s promise for eternity as Jesus helps us write the next chapter of our lives.
All things new – the story of God’s promise for eternity as Jesus helps us to write the story of our lives.
On this All Saints Sunday, may God who makes all things new bless the story of your life in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
All Things New
by Pastor Marc Brown
November 7, 2021
Accompanying Scriptures: Revelation 21:1-7
(full online service video below)
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for November 7, 2021
The Good News “All Things New”
Scripture Lesson Revelation 21:1-7
Music “Hymn of Promise”
In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree; in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody; there’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me. From the past, will come the future; what it holds, a mystery, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
In our end if our beginning; in our time, infinity; in our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity. In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
Closing Music “My Heart Rejoices” Terry Osman