Saturday, May 05, 2007

"See, I am making all things new!" (Rev. 21:5)

Images like photographs certainly help communicate the gospel, and the picture above is what I'm using for my sermon tomorrow on the Fifth Sunday of Easter. I took this picture myself two summers ago when I was hiking with friends in Glacier National Park in Montana. We were rounding a ridge and descending into a valley when we came into this area which had been completely ravaged by a major forest fire two years earlier. The landscape in this section of the trail looked altogether different from the few miles we had already traveled. The stark contrast of the charred, dead tree trunks with the lush, flowering undergrowth enchanted us. Ever the nerdy pastors, we named it "Resurrection Valley."

Although we think of fires as destructive, we have actually learned that they are one of nature's ways of replenishing and renewing growth. This particular conflagration had consumed a high percentage of the park's lower elevation forest and there were worries that the bleak landscape would disappoint the park's thousands of summer visitors. Not so! We considered ourselves fortunate to view such fascinating scenery up-close, and I'm sure other hikers did, as well. It was beautiful. Almost other-worldly, but beautiful and hopeful. Out of the ashes of death, God raises up new life. From the old life of sin, Christ can and does calls us to lives of love and faithfulness. "And the one seated on the throne said, 'See, I am making all things new!'"

There are many ways to think of God's desire and true ability to make things new among us, but on this day I'd like to think of how agape fills that purpose. Jesus' commandment "to love one another" is new, but it is also renewing. It restores broken relationships. It brings about reconciliation. Agape has the power to transform otherwise hopeless scenarios. In the fire of baptismal grace, agape when it is seen and enacted helps give us a vision of what God's kingdom will be like when he comes to make his home among mortals in the new heaven and the new earth.

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