The Sunday Sermon: All Things are New

Rev. Richard Hogue Jr.
May, 15, 2022

            Welcome, visitors and good people of St. Paul’s, to another Sunday in Easter, among these great fifty days. It’s hard to believe that it’s been a month since we all celebrated the vigil, and the night before the great dawn of that singular holy day. Twenty working days have passed, and some weekends, days where we worked, where we got in our cars, or worked from home, one Zoom after another. On and on it seems to go. Another month of staring at our computer screens, slaying the emails like zombies, tasks to complete, one down, another ten to go. Life events have happened, birthdays, anniversaries, hurt feelings, vacation, heartbreak, and time just rattles on. Even the sad, terrible sting of death has still stained the lives of many, leaving pain and loss in its wake, even as we form the words with our lips, Alleluia.

            These cycles are continuous, as we all know. Certainly, things change, as we well know on this campus, but the shape of things often remain the same in our ordinary sense. Elections are certainly a big deal, wars continue, and COVID still shambles through so many lives, but even among all this there are still these moments of birth, life, death, around and around. One can be inspired by these, or choose to see them as stale, dry, even monotonous. Our reading from Revelation this morning seems to point to a sort of finality to it all, but we are too quick to forget that Revelation itself is written in precisely the same sort of era we are in now. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the Romans had destroyed Jerusalem. It felt like the end of the world, but life went on. The writer of Revelation isn’t pointing to the finality of it all, but to the very cyclical nature that continues in the face of death and destruction, where new life takes root despite the machinations and greed of empires. Even in the face of global calamities, the cosmos doesn’t end, and life went on. This planet has experienced five global extinctions, from asteroids to mega volcanoes. Humans have the tools to end the world as we know it through fire or drowning ourselves, but we would have the ultimate hubris to think God couldn’t raise something from the ashes again. In the face of all this, one must ask: What difference does it make?

            Ever since and long before the first Easter, humans have made the same mistakes, murder, theft, wars and rumors of wars, colonization, jealousy, natural disasters, calamities, isolation, injustice, impugning women’s bodies, and on and on it goes. There gets to be this sense of an almost H. P. Lovecraft like benign ignorance of the universe of who and what we are, a horror not of fright, but of utter meaninglessness. We sit atop a blue ball, watching economic indices as if they mattered, booms and busts, human abstractions that are quickly forgotten by us and unnoticed by the cosmos. The unremarkable nature of it all can make the darkness between the stars grow wider in our minds, just as a tree grows, dies, and then falls under the sky, and lies forgotten beneath the ageless black space of night. [long pause]

            What keeps us going? What is it that drives us forward? How do we wake up every day and face such stifling monotony, such insignificance? Where does the energy come from?  What is it about us that makes us move? Why do we keep telling these stories? What might we see anew through our Easter eyes?

            Do you remember, in the beginning, when all was dark, formless, and void, and then God said, “let there be light,” and there was? Do you remember that God said it was good? Do you remember that God called the light Day, and the darkness Night, and that was the very first day? No day has been like that one, and not one is alike since. And then God spoke more things into being, each on a different day, and God said that these too were good. Do you remember that God spoke humanity into being, and God called us good? Do you remember that each one of the days, from creation and until the end time, each and every one of those days is blessed? Do you remember that the earth turns, the moon circles us, and we spin around the Sun, and the Sun follows the arc of the Milky Way, and we swirl through the vastness of creation, never once beginning a new day in the same place we started yesterday? Do you remember that no day is like another? Do you remember that like every single day, each one of us is unique, and that we too, were spoken into being by the Creator, like light, like stars, like trees, like water, and that nothing can take away that inherent, created, uniqueness? Do you remember that this same God and Creator, chose to be born in our world, on this planet, among us?

The being that spoke us into existence also chose this very life! We see it as mundane, but how could it be if God chose it? The Creator was born as Jesus, who lived and loved, celebrated, and suffered, watched the sun rise and set and rise again just like all people before and after us. That same person, Jesus, who was there at the first day, knows the day each of us were named, intentionally lived a life like ours, full of fear and joy, slow days, and fast days, and then one day he too died, but three days later emerged from death and once again brought life! That day, too, was unlike any other.

And this is what I see anew with my own Easter eyes: a community where nothing is stale. I see a people eager for new and abundant life. I see my own gratitude for this life and community, even as the rest of events spin around me out of control. The depth of my gratitude wells up into a knowledge that none of this is stale, none of this is mundane. Or, to put it better, the mundane is most sacred to God. Everything from the sidewalk outside to the trees in Balboa Park to the water in the harbor is blessed by a loving Creator. That newness, sacredness, and love is in everyone here, too.

            And here’s some good news: What’s new every day is us. And because we are different every day, any story we hear, for the first time or the thousandth, is heard anew. Jesus heard stories too, and he told them, and retold them. And his friends retold those same stories to each other, and when Jesus died, they were afraid to tell any more stories. But then, they saw him. And they began to tell new stories, and when others heard those new stories, they too began to tell those new stories. People like Paul and Barnabas heard those new stories, and they told more people those stories. And those people told others, and so it went for years, and years, and years, and then you heard those stories. And we tell them together, and they become new again. And because we are all unique again every day, the same stories have been told but never heard by the same people the same way since the very first story.

            These stories, our stories, are like the very plants, trees, and grass, and like stars too, because they start small like a seed, or a cloud of dust and gas, and then the most natural and seemingly mundane of things happen to them, light and water, gravity, and pressure, occur. And so, the seed sprouts, and the cloud of dust and gas swirls. And the sprout becomes a tree, and the swirling cloud of gas and dust becomes a star! And they live, and produce shade and leaves and fruit, and light and warmth and stability, and they do this for a short time relative to their surroundings, and then they die. And all they ever were or did is returned, leaving dirt, and stardust, and so the next seed has a space, and the next cloud of dust and gas forms, and so it goes, each different from the last. Our stories don’t die with us, these stories don’t die with us, they lay a seedbed, of fecund soil, a verdant nebula for the next story to take root. And so it goes, from one generation to the next, each hearing the story anew. The story of Jesus is as prolific as the plants of the earth, and the stars of the sky!

            Now, this is our story, and we find our own ways to love one another, we try to build new Jerusalems, we praise God’s name in our way, we tell our story to new disciples, such as we are baptizing today. We sing new Alleluias on every new day. We are always fresh, we are always new, and the gospel we carry is proof of that resurrecting power, because we make it new, every day.

            So, listen, again, for the old has passed, behold, God makes all things new! To the thirsty God will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life, and we will witness that now, with new life being showered in God’s perpetual and freely given grace to Demi Rose Rodriguez, and Michael Gonzalez III, and all of us. God’s grace is always fresh, always new, and always calling us deeper into this life we are given. God dwells in us, and we are the newness in life, from our toes to our ears. Nothing is ordinary because God makes nothing that isn’t filled with possibility. We are the proof of that, these baptisms are proof of that. Live the story God is writing in your life, and other will see it too. It will make all things new, alleluia!

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