A Whole New Life

The Rev. Jimmy Abbott
All Saints’ Day
November 1, 2015

Revelation 21:1-6a

There is a new genre of fast food called “the mashup.” You’ve seen these. Taco Bell came out with a taco, in which the shell was a giant Dorito. Kentucky Fried Chicken had a bacon and cheese sandwich in which fried chicken breasts were the bread. There’s another sandwich right now in production by Hardee’s that is a hamburger with bacon, macaroni and cheese, with buffalo hot sauce. Get the Pepto-Bismol.

Carl’s Junior fast food restaurant came out with a new sandwich this summer, that, I think, might actually work. It’s called “The Most American Thickburger.” So you have the bottom half of a the hamburger bun, the hamburger patty, then a hot dog cut in half, and then the rest of the hamburger bun. I can’t tell if that sounds gross or delicious.

Maybe I’m intrigued by the Most American Thickburger because I can’t really tell. Is it a hot dog? Is it a hamburger? A ham dog? A hot burger? Is it something entirely different? Or is that America’s two favorite foods have finally come together in this one thousand calorie package of joy?

On this All Saints’ Day, we celebrate another coming together. And it’s one that we may not necessarily expect. Who would have thought that a hamburger and a hot dog belong together? Who would have thought that heaven and earth belong together? But they do. They belong together.

St. John says in Revelation, “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.” The hot dog and the hamburger, which had always been meant to be eaten together have finally come together in perfect harmony. Heaven and earth, were created by God as interlocking and overlapping realms. They are finally being united in the way that God has always intended them to be.

And if that’s the case, the end of the world is not a bad thing; it is not about God destroying the earth. It’s about God remaking the earth. It’s about God putting together what was always supposed to be together. What had kept heaven and earth separate was death. Death stood as the barrier, as the gap between the two. But that’s not the case anymore.

Hear what St. John says, “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And then comes my absolute favorite verse in the entire bible, God says, “Behold, I make all things new.”

God makes all things new. This is the true Christian hope in death. Not that our souls float away to heaven, but that one day, on the last day, God will remake us. God will put us back together again – heart, mind, soul and body – like we had always meant to be. We believe that what happened to Jesus on Easter morning – a bodily resurrection – is what God will do for us. Because God will make all things new, including us.

And we don’t have to wait until the end of the world to be made new. This is what baptism prefigures. Baptism is a sign of how we die in Christ, and are raised to new life with him. Baptism brings together the earthly and the heavenly realities of our lives.

There are other places that heaven and earth overlap. I believe that our church – this actual, physical space – is one of those places. A place where heaven and earth interlock. This is a place on earth in which we worship God who sits on his throne in heaven. Churches are physical reminders of what we hope happens for the whole world – that one day heaven and earth will be put back together. Next time you walk into this church, think of it as an intersection. A “thin place” where the veil between heaven and earth is thinner than the rest of the world.

The intersection between heaven and earth does not just happen in physical places either, but we see it in people. The saints of God are the people who live on earth as if they were already in heaven. That’s why we celebrate their deaths, and that’s why mourning and crying and pain will be no more. Because to God life is changed, not ended. I ask you now to think back on the saints in your own life. And I ask you to take a moment, turn the person or people nearest you, and share with them. Share who was a saint in your life, and how you could see heaven through their life on earth.

Finally, I wish to make two remarks concerning a new religious community that has just started in Old Town Spring. You have probably seen it in the news. I wish to make two remarks about that community.

First, I want to say something of a spiritual nature. We have nothing to fear if we cling to the cross of Christ. We need not fear any powers, seen or unseen, if we have faith in the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our spirituality is focused on the Lord Jesus and his throne, that is it. We have nothing to fear. The saints of God and the examples of those who came before should give us courage in this present darkness.

Second, I want to say something of a cultural nature. As I have said before, Spring, Texas is not a Christian community. Though there are many churches here, Spring is not a Christian environment. It is a pagan environment. This new religious community in Old Town is not the start of a new issue, it is a symptom of an already present issue. And that is that we are living in a pagan environment.

Now, this is nothing new to Christianity. In fact, paganism is Christianity’s natural habitat. The saints of God are actually quite accustomed to living in environments that are hostile to our way of life and our beliefs. Think of St. Paul wondering through Athens and seeing the many gods and demons worshipped there.

Think of Perpetua and her Companions, being thrown to the wild beasts in a Roman coliseum. Think of Jonathan Daniels, a seminarian studying to be a priest in the Episcopal Church who stepped in front of a shotgun blast during the civil rights movement to save the life of an innocent black child. Think of those twenty-one Christians kneeling on a beach in north Africa with knives at their throats and “Jesus is Lord” on their lips.

We, as Christians, as the saints of God, we should be not be concerned with surviving in this pagan environment. In fact, it’s the opposite. We don’t think about surviving, we think about thriving. Because the saints of God thrive in the face of opposition. The blood of martyrs is the seed for the church. Paul thrived and gave us huge chunks of the New Testament. Perpetua thrived in the face of danger and was crowned with the name of martyr. To this day, Episcopalians make pilgrimages to the place where Jonathan Daniels was killed. In the face of opposition, and of hostility, we thrive.

That is what it means to be a saint. To live on earth as if you were already living in heaven. That’s how Jesus lived. In him all of heaven and all of earth came together and not even death could contain him. In the face of hostility, in the face of opposition, in the face of the cross, our Lord Jesus triumphed.

I am not concerned about petty hostility to Christianity. I am not concerned when somebody says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” If their attitude is getting in the way of my spirituality, then that’s my problem. Then there’s something missing in my life with Jesus.

If we want to live as saints of God then we need to keep our eyes on the prize. When we are confronted with difficult choices; when we have major decisions to make in our lives; when we face opposition; we must not be defined by what others think or say about us. We must only be defined by sure and certain faith that the Lord Jesus brings together earth and heaven. We must live our lives as an intersection between heaven and earth.

Though my cardiologist wouldn’t recommend it, our lives should look like the hamburger hot dog sandwich. Not just a little bit of heaven and a little bit of earth, but a whole new thing altogether. That new thing, that is life with God. That is life with Jesus. That is life as a saint.

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