Revelation 21:1-6a
1Then 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. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." 5And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new."
Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6aThen 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 as a gift from the spring of the water of life."
 
 
The Future of Tomorrow, Revelation 21:1-6a, November 1, 2009
 
A peculiar situation exists in southwest Ohio, with a village called Morrow. It was named for Jeremiah Morrow, one of Ohio’s early governors. But some village residents probably wish his name had been Jeremiah Smith. The Morrow moniker has caused much confusion, especially when someone wanted to get to Morrow tomorrowBob Gibson, Steve Cottrell, Ian MacIntosh, the Kingston Trio and even the Muppets. There are several variations of the lyrics, one version follows.


.

It didn't take long for somebody to see the humorous possibilities and a song was born. We don’t know the name of the original songwriter, but the piece made its way into the larger music scene, where it was recorded by, among others,
I started on a journey, about a year ago

To a little town called Morrow in the state of Ohio.

I’ve never been much of a traveler so I really didn’t know

That Morrow was the hardest place I’d ever try to go.//

I went down to the station for my ticket and applied

For tips regarding Morrow, not expecting to be guyed.

Said I, “My friend, I’d like to go to Morrow and return

No later than tomorrow for I haven’t time to burn.”

Said he to me, “Now let me see, if I have heard you right.

You’d like to go to Morrow and return tomorrow night.

You should have gone to Morrow yesterday and back today,

For the train that goes to Morrow is a mile upon its way.”//

“My friend,” said I, “It seems to me you’re talking through your hat.

There is a town called Morrow on the line, now tell me that.”

“There is,” said he, “But take from me a quiet little tip

To go from here to Morrow is a fourteen-hour trip.

“If you had gone to Morrow yesterday, now don’t you see,

You could have gone to Morrow and returned today at three.

For the train today to Morrow, if the schedule is right,

Today it goes to Morrow and returns tomorrow night.”//

I was so disappointed, I was mad enough to swear!

The train had gone to Morrow and had left me standing there.

That man was right in telling me that I was a howling jay.

I cannot go to Morrow, so I guess in town I’ll stay.

           
           
 
As the song points out, getting to tomorrow can be a difficult proposition.


 
But, of course, that’s always been true, especially when “tomorrow” refers to a better time when the problems of today are resolved. In biblical terms, tomorrow — the future, the time that has not yet arrived — is the assurance that the present is never the end of the story.

Today’s reading from Revelation is typical of such biblical thought. The day is coming, says the Lord, when there will be no more mourning or crying or pain, “for the first things have passed away.”

 
After spending the entire day working on a lecture, theologian Karl Barth was still at work in the evening when he was interrupted by two phone calls, (about 9 o'clock.) One was from his godson Ulrich Barth, to whom he quoted a verse from a comforting hymn which spoke about the Christian hope.
The other person who wanted to speak to him so late at night was his friend Eduard Thurneysen, . . . . For some time, they talked about the gloomy world situation.
 
Then Barth said, "But keep your chin up! Never mind! He will reign!" [i]

 
That night, KarlBarth died in his sleep.
 
What a sign-off. … To bed -- to sleep -- to eternity. God will reign!

The hope of a future age of peace, ruled by God, is a traditional Old Testament Jewish hope that is central to John's images as the Revelation concludes. For those whose names are found in "The Book of Life", the promise is a familiar one: the Jewish and Christian hope of "a new heaven and a new earth." John's first-century readers would know this description from its earlier picture in Isaiah.
 
As a city now built by God alone, above and outside the old corrupt creation, this Jerusalem is now truly a new creation and a holy city. This new creation becomes nothing less than the household of God. The divine "tabernacle" had always symbolized God's dwelling place with God's people (Exodus 25:8-9; 29:45; 1 Kings 6:12-13).
 
According to John's fulfilled vision in this new creation, God at last tabernacles, or dwells, with God's people. This had been long promised in the OT Law (Leviticus 26:1-12), and the Prophets (Ezekiel's (37:24-28; 43:7-10) and Zechariah's (2:11).

In our day, we most often hear about Christianity’s view of tomorrow when we are personally facing sorrow or pain that seems insolvable. “Don’t lose hope,” we say. “There is a better world coming.” “In the end, nothing can separate us from the love of God.” “Tomorrow — some distant tomorrow — you will see your loved one again.” And so on.


God’s tomorrow is the basis for Christianity’s long-term confidence, but the promise of someday seems so far off that it feels little more than wishful thinking. At times, the best we can make of the-tomorrow-factor is to deal with it at closer range.

In the early, dark days of
World War II, England was ill prepared to defend itself. One of the most popular songs in England during that time was “The White Cliffs of Dover,” which proclaimed, “There’ll be joy and laughter / And peace ever after, / Tomorrow / when the world is free ... Tomorrow / Just you wait and see.”

While the mood of that song was not unlike that of the reading from Revelation, the tomorrow it had in mind was a temporal, not eternal, one. It was a tomorrow within the lifetime of that generation. Those tomorrows exist somewhere between the “Give us today our daily bread” and “thy kingdom come” of the Lord’s Prayer. …
 
I wonder if any of you here thought you might live as long as you have. Would you have done anything differently years ago? Do you ever wish something said or done could be undone? I would guess, all of us fit that category.
 
But what do we focus on? …. our personal lives, family and circumstances. How many of us would look back and say, "I wish I had done this or this differently for the benefit of the church of Jesus Christ?" This is the one we say we "trust & obey.
 
The future of tomorrow depends on us. The ultimate tomorrow is in God's hands, but the nearer tomorrows are our responsibility.
 
We have the power, the ability, and the resources to make at least some things happen if we truly want new members. Please don't stone me, or run me out of town, but here it is . . . these are some of the things that come to mind when I'm praying for our congregation . . .
 
  • The old guard unwillingness to allow growth of a new guard.
  • Lack of trust in church's handling of finances.
  • Stranglehold on future-looking ministries and helpful technologies.
  • Disconnect, lack of communication between Session, Pastor, People, Office.
 
People have asked me where there is no growth. As long as we do nothing different we will get the same results. This is not unlike what many small congregations are facing. The difference is, we have been blessed with abundant financial resources that no one has been willing to use to further the kingdom of God. Why not do something constructive and creative with the resources we have?
 
The kingdom of God is the ultimate tomorrow. It’s the goal of history and the reward of the faithful. Its coming (appearing) is up to God, not us. But between today and that tomorrow are many closer tomorrows. Those tomorrows exist somewhere between the “Give us today our daily bread” and “thy kingdom come” of the Lord’s Prayer.
 
It's what we do with those tomorrows that matters to those generations following us. The future of those tomorrows, especially those in the life of the church, is our privilege to partner with God to bring about. We who follow Jesus have the duty to advance the Kingdom of God.

 
hus God, the truth, is a God who is present at the beginning, the center and the end of all created existence.

The existence enjoyed by those dwelling in this new creation is one void of tears and death, mourning and pain -- all will "be no more." The corrupted creation they were a part of (we are a part of) has itself disappeared ("passed away"). John's vision emphasizes the radical newness of this future.
 
This is not simply a remodel job on the old vehicle. This is a brand-spanking-new "new creation." God promises "I am making all things new". All we have to do is work on the nearby tomorrows. As the Advent/Christmas season approaches, let us each seek God in our own way for wisdom in the New Year, as we move into tomorrow today.
 
Rev. Rosemary Stelz
First Presbyterian Church
Bastrop, Louisiana
 


[i] (as quoted in Vernard Eller, ChristianAnarchy: Jesus' Primacy Over the Powers [Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B.Eerdmans, 1987], 158).

 
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