Years ago, now, I remember that John Hinkle, one of our seminary’s teachers in the area of pastoral care and counseling said that one of his favorite verses from the New Testament was from the book of Revelation, Chapter 21, Verse 5: Behold, I make all things new. I’m not sure that I could tell you after over 25 years out of school, many other things that John said, although to be honest, he made a huge impact on my life. But, I can tell you this: his reference to what God tells us in Revelation 21:5, is a memory verse that I will carry as long as I am able: “Behold, I make all things new,” says our God.

What would that look like as we begin the year 2004? It would mean an end to war. It would mean an end to poverty. It would mean an end to greed. It would mean an end to abusive relationships. It would mean an end to self-destructive relationships. It would mean that the old order of this world would finally become what God has intended it to be from the beginning: a world living not by greed, or hatred, or fear, or self-centeredness, but rather a world where love, true justice, mercy, and compassion would prevail.

I know that as this column is read, some will think that this is too optimistic a viewpoint. Many of us work in companies where we have become simply “cogs” in wheels. We do not have as much as we used to. We have lost benefits, and many are looking for work. What concerns me most as a pastor is that people must not lose a sense that what they are doing is making a positive difference somehow, and that their lives count for something.

I wonder at times how our parents survived the Great Depression of the 1930s. We are so used to having so much today, compared with our parents’ generation. I have listened to many people over the years, and many who came up through that time, have said things like this to me: “We were poor, but we didn’t know it.” By that statement, I would take it to mean, that the person who said it, didn’t have a lot of material goods. Perhaps he had food, and clothing and a place to live. (In fact, I know that that was the case. This gentleman lived on a farm north of Logansport.). But, I can tell you this, his dad made a huge difference in his life, because his dad was a man with integrity and faith in God. And his father loved his three sons, as did his mother. And that family worked together, and worshiped together, and found things to laugh about.

I remember that in the 1980’s Robert Schuler wrote a book entitled “Tough Times Don’t Last-Tough People Do.” And in it, he told the story of how his own home (a farm in the Midwest) was totally destroyed in a tornado. As his family came up out of the storm cellar, the farm that had surrounded them before they went into that cellar had literally been blown away around them. When they emerged from their hiding place underground, nothing was left of their farm. And Dr. Schuler’s father had to start all over again. And, he did. He and his family rebuilt that farm. That kind of ability to recover from tremendous loss requires not only a lot of “grit,” but also a deep and abiding faith that better days lie ahead.

We are beginning a new year. As we do so, let’s begin it not simply with the idea that “when things get tough, the tough get going,” which is true, by the way. But, instead, as men and women who believe in a living God, let’s draw on God’s deep love for us, and God’s willingness to provide what we need to make a new day. Most of all, let’s cling to God’s grace, which can heal deep wounds, can wipe away sin and the sting of sin, and change our own internal viewpoint from one of defeat, to a resurrection faith filled with hope! I really don’t know what 2004 will bring. But I do know the God who guides history, and us as well. And to me, that makes all the difference.

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. {2} And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. {3} And 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; {4}He 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.” {5} And 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.” {6} Then 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. {7} Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” Revelation 21:1-7 NRSV



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Reverend Chris B. Madison

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