Tuesday, September 2, 2008

we gotta sea the future

“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.” – Rev 21:1

In the wake of Gustav, recalling Revelation’s vision of God’s sea-less future seems fitting. At times like this, we’re all just a little too familiar with the power of the sea. Our hearts go out to the people of New Orleans. My personal prayer is that Gustav doesn’t destroy too many lives. And then there’s Hurricane Hannah, which is gathering strength near the Bahamas even as I type. Unless “the first heaven and the first earth” pass away by mid-November, more hurricanes will come, more damage will be done, and more lives will be ruined. The sea thunders.

No one denies that the sea can be a source of chaos and destruction. But for people of Jesus’ day, the sea was the epitome of chaos and destruction. People feared the sea. The sea was a place of confusion and darkness. In the biblical worldview, there was no “thunder like the thundering of the sea” (Is 17:12). Of course, we no longer feel this way about the sea. Like many aspects of creation, we’ve “conquered” the sea. We sail on its waters. We cage-dive with its sharks. We surf on its waves. And then Gustav surfaces and we’re forced to leave our homes and our false sense of security behind. And we remember – “there is no thunder like the thundering of the sea.”

The question I’d like to pose this morning is this: have we made room for Gustav or Hannah in how we understand Christian salvation? Because if we don’t have hope in the face of Gustav, I’m not sure that we have anything, as Jesus’ disciples, to offer our hope-deprived world. But as Christians we do have hope – for God is making a new heavens and a new earth, and the sea will be no more.

In other words, it’s not just that we are fallen. It’s not just that we are out-of-joint. Everything is connected. If we’re out of joint, if we’re in need of restoration, so too is our world that God entrusted to us. And if God intends to restore us, God also intends to restore his good creation. Salvation isn’t about plucking a few individuals out of a leaky, sinking ship. Salvation is about God’s plan to remake both the ship and the people that are in the ship (and about God teaching us to sail it properly, but alas I digress).

After all, Jesus isn’t just “our personal” savior (though he certainly is that as well). No, God sent his Son in order that “the kosmos might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17). In other words, it’s not just you and me who anxiously wait for something better. No, “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God” (Rom 8:19). When you and I are remade and restored, the creation, the world, the entire kosmos is going to join in the celebration. This is our hope. “The sea will be no more.”

Think about it for a moment. It’s not a coincidence that God’s great acts of salvation prior to Jesus involved God trampling over the sea. Noah safely glided through the flood. God parted the raging waters of the Red Sea in order to save Israel from the Egyptians. Our God “tramples the waves of the Sea” (Job 9:8). God confronts the epitome of chaos and destruction, that place of confusion and darkness, and comes out victorious.

In the midst Gustav, in the midst of Hannah, we can’t forget that our Lord is “walking on the sea” (Mt 14:26). We don’t have to explain or understand “why” certain things happen. After all, “we see in a mirror, dimly. We know only in part” (1 Cor 13:12). That being said, what we do know is glorious. God is making a new heaven and a new earth, and the sea will be no more. God will trample over all chaos and destruction, all confusion and darkness. This is our Christian hope. Our vessel may seem leaky, especially when Gustav shows its claws, but this ship we call creation isn’t going down. It’s being remade. And the sea will be no more.

FOR TODAY: Be hopeful. “You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them” (Ps 89:9).

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