We’re well into the period of Easter now. The eggs and bunnies seem to have been long past (although I spotted one supermarket still trying to clear their shelves of Easter chocolate nearly a month later) and the shock of the early morning service seems, for the time at least, to have been forgotten. The readings on a Sunday have led us through the resurrection appearances of Jesus – with ‘doubting’ Thomas and the Fishermen both getting a chance to meet the risen Christ.
It’s interesting that in this period two of the three readings I had at my induction have appeared in the lectionary. Firstly we have met again with Thomas – becoming a believer in time of disbelief. His story speaks to many of us of our challenge to believe when the odds seem stacked against us. What was the likelihood of that being the case? What were the chances of something good coming out of a period that was so difficult? When everyone around us seems to be full of the joys, what does it mean to hold on to something, even if it seems so far from our experience right now?
The other reading was the revelation of the new heaven and the new earth. The old things had passed away, and in the new were found the dwelling of God – the place where God’s love and Spirit could be found and God’s mission lived out. The vision in Revelation gives a place in which, although pain and suffering and difficulty and struggles had been part of the life of the world, the new heaven and earth – the new experience of the world (or the Church) – brought with it the blessing of God’s love and the grounding of the gospel. The new commandment to ‘Love one another’ speaks strongly about how the new heaven and the new earth are to be: communities grounded on love for each other, and The Other.
The vision of the new heaven and new earth reminds us that with our difficulties we are given a new way of being and a new outlook on what we do. Thomas was uncertain about where he found himself, seemingly left out of the loop but in one moment was given a new future, one grounded in that claim of ‘My Lord and My God.’ As he was made immediately aware of the faith to which he was called, so too are we reminded that in the difficulties that affect our lives – be it health, money, job, family, friends – or in our life as a Christian community we are able to be given a new vision for how we can be.
We are given the opportunity to start afresh, to ground ourselves in the gospel of love, to speak with those we don’t have reason to engage with usually, and to share what it is that makes us claim ‘My Lord and My God.’ In our contact with those who are in our community and wider afield, with those who desperately seek to hear the message of ‘all are welcome,’ and those who deserve to be treated as people loved by God in a world that fails to love, we are called to offer a new heaven and a new earth, a place where God dwells and God’s praise is proclaimed.
In the difficulties in our lives, how can we provide a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ where it is clear that we are living in praise of God? Who gets to decide who is deserving of the love that Jesus asks us to share with one another? What might it mean to us to let the past be wiped away and a new way of being, a new way of believing, a new way of loving lead our vision for the future?
Both as individuals and in our life as a Christian community, we are required to consider what these mean to our faith and to how we live out the gospel in our lives. Whether we start something new, or whether we are challenged to reconsider our view, we each have an opportunity to grow in our discipleship and deepen our understanding of what it means to love one another. Through this we can strengthen ourselves for our work as a Church.