If you look on the screen, you’ll notice a drawing.
What was the first thing you saw in the drawing? How many of you first saw a vase? How many of you first saw two people staring at each other?
Let’s put another picture on the screen and tell me what you see?
How many of you see an elderly woman? How many of you see a young woman? When our family looked at this picture together, it took me several minutes before I was able to see the young woman.
Sometimes, it’s a challenge to see a particular picture when in reality there is more than one picture for us to see.
Our scripture reading from the book of Revelation invites us to see things in a new way. The word “see” or a variation of that word is used four times in just six verses.
The disciple, John in describing his heavenly vision begins by saying that he saw a new heaven and a new earth.
He then tells us that he saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven.
A loud voice focuses on the importance of seeing by saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals.”
And Jesus, the one who is seated on the throne says,“See, I am making all things new.”
The Book of Revelation is appropriately named. It is a revelation of God’s final victory when heaven and earth will be made new. The word “Revelation” comes from the word, “reveal.” John is revealing a new world that has been made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. John is helping us to see the world in a new way.
Just a few months ago, many of us, if we had the special kind of glasses, were able to look up to see the rare occurrence of a solar eclipse. Here in Ohio, we weren’t in the pathway of a total solar eclipse, but it was around 87%, I believe.
On the day of the solar eclipse, I was at the house working on my sermon. I think it was in the upper 80s that day, hot and sticky. The full eclipse was supposed to happen around 2:30 that afternoon. My next door neighbors had invited me to join them if I wanted to borrow their eclipse glasses so that I would be able to see it.
I politely said, “No, that’s Ok, but thanks.”
Well, as it was getting closer and closer to 2:30, I began to regret my decision because I could tell that it was getting a little darker outside. It was also getting a little cooler, like ten degrees cooler. I began to wonder what the sun looked like as the moon was beginning to overlap it’s magnificent light.
Since I didn’t have the special glasses and I didn’t want to bother the next door neighbors, I went back to work on my sermon, thinking that it was a missed opportunity.
Guess who called me that very minute when I was feeling left out? Penny! She was at a school meeting that day and they had let out early so that they could see the solar eclipse. Someone had given her the special glasses to see it.
She said, “Hey, I was able to see the eclipse here at the school and I have the special glasses. Do you want me to bring them to you so you can see it?”
I said, “Oh, don’t go to any trouble for me…but I guess if you really want me to see it, sure!” She said, “I’ll be there as soon as I can, because it’s going to be over soon.”
So, Penny gets to the house and I am waiting in front of our garage door! I don’t want to miss seeing the eclipse!
Penny jumps out of the car, hands me the glasses and well…I’ll let this photo tell the story.
Friends, Penny made sure that I didn’t miss seeing this very rare and awesome experience! It was so cool! I got to see the bright orange light shining around the shape of the moon. I was like a little kid taking all of this in!
Penny did for me what John is wanting to do for us on this All Saints’ Sunday. He is offering us these special heaven eclipse glasses so that all of us will be able to see this awesome picture of heaven and earth coming together!
John asks us, “Can you see it? It’s a place where God will dwell with us forever. It’s a place where there will be no more tears. Picture a place where there is no more mourning, crying or pain. This is the picture that John wants us to see, a world that is redeemed by God.
John wrote this letter of Revelation to the seven churches that were located in Asia Minor. Faced with persecution and despair, these churches needed this picture of hope.
In her excellent book, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” Betty Smith writes about a young girl, Francie Nolan, who grows up in the slums of Brooklyn. Francie’s father can’t keep a steady job and her mother is forced to provide for the family by working long and hard hours as a janitor. They barely can make ends meet.
Life is very difficult, they live in poverty, and this little girl, Francie, seems to be in a hopeless situation. Forced to work in a factory at an early age to help provide for the family, life gets more and more difficult for this young girl.
But throughout the book, there are frequent references to a tree which grows in the midst of all this poverty. And Francie admires the beauty of this tree everyday. It’s not that this tree is that beautiful or pleasing to the eye. In fact at the end of the book, the landlord has some workers cut it down.
But for Francie, this tree had an inner beauty. Even though this tree was situated in the midst of a crowded slum area in Brooklyn without adequate water, light, or soil, it somehow was able to grow and persevere.
For Francie, this tree represents hope and beauty in the midst of so much despair.
This tree which gave Francie hope every day, was a big reason why she was able to make it through those early years of life and help her to eventually make it to college. The only bad thing about this classic novel is that the author has the character, Francie going off to the University of Michigan. But other than that, it’s a pretty good book.
Think about it. A tree growing in the middle of the slums of Brooklyn gave this young girl the inspiration and hope she needed for a better future.
When John shared his revelation, his picture of new heavens and a new earth with those seven churches, I have to believe that it had a huge impact on them. I have to think that this different picture of hope is what helped them to not give up and to stay faithful as God’s people.
After all, isn’t that what saints are? People who don’t know the meaning of the word, “quit.” People who just won’t give up because they believe in a God who won’t give up.
And so today, I thank God for all of our saints represented by these candles. Because of them, we can see a new picture, a picture that is filled with the hope of Jesus Christ. Can you see it?
I have one more picture to show you. Before we put it up on the screen, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to stare at the center of the picture for 45 seconds. Don’t look away during that time. Stare at the center of the picture you’re about to see for 45 seconds. I’ll tell you when 45 seconds are over. After you’re done staring at the picture, I want you to immediately stare at something near you, and a new picture will take shape in your mind.
This is the picture that will enable us to bring transformation to our community and world.
Here’s the picture on the screen. Stare at the middle of this picture for 45 seconds. I’ll tell you when 45 seconds is over and what to do next. Ready, go!
OK, now look away from the screen and stare at something else near you. Give this a few seconds…
Can you see it?
Can You See It?
Small Group Discussion Questions
November 5, 2017
It’s not that difficult to see the pain, brokenness, and injustice that is in our community and world. When John wrote the Book of Revelation, he could see the brokenness of the seven churches being persecuted and his own persecution for being a follower of Jesus Christ. The early Christians knew of this picture all too well.
Share examples of pain, brokenness, and injustice that you see in our community and world.
Like a skilled painter and creative writer, the author of the Book of Revelation wants us to see what God’s glorious kingdom will look like someday. Similar to our recent solar eclipse when the moon and the sun were perfectly lined up, John wants us to see that time in the future when heaven (God’s space) and the world (our space) will perfectly line up. When we keep this picture in mind of heaven and earth coming together, it give us great hope that God is not only renewing the world in our present time, but one day, will banish sin and death altogether!
Read this scripture together from Revelation 21:1-6 and no, you don’t need special eclipse glasses to stare at this picture!
Then 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. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away 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.”
In his sermon, Pastor Robert shared the story of Francie Nolan, the little girl in the book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. By focusing on this tree each day, Francie was able to overcome the many challenges and brokenness all around her. For Francie, this tree represented hope and beauty in the midst of so much despair.
Share ways that people of faith can keep our eyes focused on the Book of Revelation’s picture of that time in the future when heaven and earth will be made as one and there will be no more suffering or pain in the world.