What Is Yet To Be
Topic: Biblical Verse: Revelation 21:1–21:7
The Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 18-19, 2019
“What is Yet to Be”
Last Saturday (May 11) was a milestone in my family as twin daughters, Caroline and Johanna, graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) School of the Arts in Richmond. It was a happy celebration and we rejoiced in this accomplishment in their lives. At any graduation, I am always reminded of what one commencement speaker said many years ago: “To leave this place is sad; to remain in this place would be tragic.” Very wise! We must move on in life. Of course, you know you’re going be there for awhile when the Dean’s welcome and introduction of the commencement speaker is longer than what the speaker had to say. The speaker herself was an artist from California, primarily known for marble sculpture. She had some interesting things to say, one of which was that when she told her friends and colleagues that she had been asked to be the commencement speaker, they all said the same thing: “Stop. Get out of it. This is not a time for recording words.” That really caught my attention. In the world of social media that we live in, where so much of our lives can appear under the microscope of online critique, whether we want it to or not, whether for good or for ill, where does this take us? The speaker said that this is a time of great anxiety, uncertainty, and fear, and I believe she is spot on. But she also said that to persevere is strength. In this also, I believe the speaker is spot on. To press on and not give up, to continue forward toward what is yet to be, that is our calling. For college graduates, what is yet to be is front and center in their minds as they transition to the job market or graduate studies. For all of us, what is yet to be is something we ought not forget, even in the midst of the hustle and bustle of daily life. On this Fifth Sunday of Easter, the message for today rises up out of that Epistle lesson from the final book of Scripture, the book of Revelation, and is entitled, “What is Yet to Be.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
Jesus is preparing his disciples for what is yet to be in today’s Gospel lesson (John 16:12-22). The Scripture verse chosen for this week that we read together said: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13). Jesus is pointing his disciples ahead to Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit, which we will celebrate in three weeks’ time (Sunday, June 9 is the Feast of Pentecost). Similarly, in the first Scripture lesson for today, we get a glimpse of what is yet to be on that great and final day when Christ shall come again to make all things new; when there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Right now, it can be very hard to understand and grasp this. So much of what we see in this life, so much of what comes to us in the daily news, is of strife, corruption, violence, and death. Without too much trouble, we can come to believe that this is how things have always been and this is how things will always be. But God sees things differently, and he calls us to see our lives and the world not only through the lens of today and its anxiety, uncertainty, and fear, but to walk by faith in the midst of all these things, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, scorning the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of God (Hebrews 12:2). Perhaps one of the greatest challenges that we have in this post-modern age in which we live is a profound sense of loneliness that so many people are experiencing. In fact, experts are calling this a “loneliness epidemic.”Despite the proliferation of online connections and e-communication, research indicates that loneliness statistics have doubled in the last fifty years (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-mentality/201807/what-you-need-know-about-the-loneliness-epidemic). What we are longing for is relationship, and this is what the Lord God promises in today’s Epistle lesson: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:3b-5). Jesus, who is Immanuel, God-with-us (Matthew 1:23), is God-with-us for all time and eternity. Because of Jesus’ Easter victory, even death cannot sever the relationship of grace and life that we have been given in Immanuel, God-with-us. The longing that we have for close, personal relationships will find their fulfillment in what is yet to be in the new Jerusalem where Christ will make all things new.
The challenge for us with “what is yet to be” is that we want to know exactly what this is going to look like, and we want to know now. We have a hard time not knowing; we have a hard time waiting. Graduates would certainly like to know what their future holds after the caps and gowns are put away. Parents would certainly like to know what their children’s future will hold; that they will do well in life. In the Gospel lesson, Jesus uses a birthing image to talk about birth pangs giving way to joy. The disciples’ sorrow over Jesus’ coming departure, his ascension, will give way to joy with Jesus’ promise: “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). That’s about as specific as Jesus gets with “what is yet to be” looks like. God’s Word in today’s Epistle lesson does tell us a few more specifics, which are enormously comforting: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). This passage is often chosen to be read at funerals for this very reason. In a world filled with tears, crying, pain, and death, all of these things will give way to a new creation where the Lord God is making all things new. How does all this work? We don’t know, and maybe that’s because we can’t know. Our finite brains, capable of so much, cannot grasp this. This is not a cop out or a blind obedience sort of thing, but a peaceful resting in our crucified and risen Savior. The day is coming when we will no longer walk by faith, but “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). On that great and final day when what is yet to be is present before us, all the nagging questions that gnaw at our faith in this life will fade away in the light and beauty of Christ who is risen; who is risen indeed.
What is yet to be is found in him “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8b). Hear these words from the Lord who loves us and laid down his life for us “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son” (Revelation 21:6-7). That is what is yet to be. Thanks be to God. Amen.