The readings this morning are quite helpful for those of us who are beginning to think – after a night of snow and sleet with high winds – that winter will never end. It all starts in the first line from Isaiah the prophet whose message from God is, “Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind.” Isaiah’s description of this “new earth’ continues and is enhanced by Psalm 30 which sings praise to God for having rescued the faithful ones and by the story in John’s gospel of the cure by Jesus of the royal official’s son. But, wait. Back up a moment. Aren’t we still living on this same old earth? And, even though Pluto has been downgraded in status, aren’t all – or most – of the planets and stars still intact in “the heavens” – or is Isaiah talking about THE heaven, the place we’ll be living after this?
I may sound a bit facetious here, but the meaning of this prophecy and the way we see its fulfillment in Christ are, most assuredly, about something more than what is taking place on the physical plane. Often, however, it is on this level that we continually choose to live, failing to notice deeper meaning. Jesus sounded a little grumpy even as he was attending to the long-distance healing of the royal official’s son. When he was asked to heal the boy his first response was, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” Was he able to heal the son? Of course. Was he willing? Yes. I think, though, that it must’ve been hard for him to be working among a whole population of literalists. He was on earth to facilitate the coming into being of a new consciousness, the only way that the earth and heavens can truly become new – by loving God and neighbor and thus coming to the unity that God had in mind when the “first” earth and heavens were created.
I’m fortunate to have many opportunities to participate in conversations with people whose focus is the possibility of such newness. We wonder sometimes about the convergence lately of scientific and spiritual thought. We are encouraged by the amount of sharing in interdenominational gatherings of Christians and those of other faith traditions. Sometimes we muse on why so many new discoveries in science and religion (archeologically and otherwise) have been made in our lifetime. Are we perhaps ready to go to that deeper place? In the face of terrible trauma on earth and in human life are we ready to move to forgiveness of the past, willing to embrace “our neighbors” without distinction, able to see that our salvation is in love and love alone?
There seems no time like the present to embrace this hope for newness.