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21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 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 without cost from the spring of the water of life.”
This passage from Revelations is what began my blog-writing process. Like the apostle John, I was witnessing something new in my life—a “New Jerusalem,” if you will, that required my attention, my contemplation, and finally, my acknowledgment. Scholars have argued over the true meaning of the rhapsodic imagery described in Revelations. Most agree that the New Jerusalem is an idea, and it is this: it is a dwelling place for the Lord that is no longer constricted by bricks or mortar, by tent-poles or canvas. The New Jerusalem is a holy temple that dwells with and within people. Within us. We are all to become new little churches, or as C.S. Lewis puts it, “to become a little Christ” (from Mere Christianity). When the New Jerusalem comes within you, the old way of doing things dies to make room for what is new. The New Jerusalem needs “heart real estate” to thrive, of course.
We all know that “new” can be exciting, but “new” can also be daunting. “New” always serves as a marker between beginnings and endings, and is, thus, a source of discomfort, too. At this moment in my life, I am watching several close friends and family members jostle up against “new” in ways that are amazing and terrifying. I am watching my sister, Terry, take a leap and move from her long-time home in Knoxville, TN to begin a “new” life in Virginia, for example. I am watching my father-in-law, Buddy, mourn the loss of his wife, begin the process of selling his home, and decide what the rest of his own “new” life will look like. And, I am watching myself begin a “new” school year, bidding an agonizing farewell to what have been the most painful and joyful months of my life.
While pondering the “new,” one can feel paralyzed, yet it is crucial to look for the hope that is concealed within it. In flowery and poetic language, the passage from Revelations above describes how The New Jerusalem is prepared lovingly and appears dressed in her finest wedding gown, glowing with anticipation. God invites her to come forward—this is a planned wedding, after all, and all present will drink from a fountain gushing not with chocolate or champagne, but with the living water to which Jesus alludes in John 4:10. It is the water of self-discovery, of blessings known and unknown, of grace heartily undeserved.
Join me as we sit by this fountain, raise a glass to your New Jerusalem, and take a sip. Cheers.