Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Revelation 22:12-21, "The Circle of Life", Easter 7, Mothers Day, 2013

Do you remember the popular and even famous Lion King ballad, "The Circle of Life" by Sir Elton John? It's one of the most memorable moments of the movie. What parent hasn't hear this song or even sang along to this song. I was 13 when the Lion King came out, maybe a bit to old to be still watching Disney Movies....but are we ever told for Disney Movies ;). The "Circle of Life" song like the Lion King movie is a "feel good" song. We get a certain comfort from considering the reality of this "circle" i.e birth-life-death. As much as we hate death there is a certain comfort that arises out of it's inevitability, death is the great equalizer, none of us, no matter how rich or powerful can escape death. In time we all die, one generation gives way to another and so the circle be un broken.

Our passage brought to us by the John the Revelator takes a revolutionary spin on the circle of life. Instead of a circle which spins from birth to life to death, Johns circle un ravels and and spins wildly out of control as the circle is broken when death is removed from the equation. Instead of death the circle breaks open and veers down a straight path that is eternal life. It speaks of the possibility and the new reality of a life without death. This is a promise made from God and "of the Lamb" that all who put their faith in the Lamb will experience new life and will be part of the new creation.

This time of year is a good time to consider new life and new creation, after all it's spring. Everywhere we look we see signs of newness. We see new buds, new flowers, on the farm theres new live stock and new crops being planted and growing. It's a marvelous time and even a mysterious time, because even science and all it's abilities can empirically explain why leaves return, why flowers bud and why seeds germinate anymore than it can empirically disprove or prove God's exsistance. This is the beauty of faith... the beauty of new creation....mystery. The thing about the mystery of new life is that it takes sacrifice, even the sacrifice of death in order for it to take hold. Tree's must die and their leaves float away, seeds must fall to the earth and wither and die, even Solomon when they spawn they die. All this happens in order for new life to begin.

When I was a child I would sneak out of bed down the hall or stairs and yell out to my mom, "Mom!...Mom!" And she would respond "yes sweet heart?" and the I would say, "Just checking". My kids do the same thing (really just Gabe) only it's a little different. After putting him to bed, he'll come down the hallway and complain about this, or complain about that. I don't think anything is really wrong, what I do think is that he just wants to make sure we're still there, that we still care and if he needs us...we are right here. I think it's more about making sure that no matter what he still has the undivided attention of his mother, because it's not me he asks for or runs to, it's not me he says, "hug and kiss" to, it's his mother.

Today is Mothers Day. I don't think it's possible to speak of new life and new birth without think about mothers and with out giving our mothers around of applause, after all without them...literally, none of us would be here ;). I am certain that anatomy is not the only reason women are the givers of life, I'm pretty sure it also has something to do with toughness ;). It's not just sleepless nights, restless days and busy mornings our mommy's endure, but it's also the pain, trauma and even the sacrifice of child bearing that makes them tougher than us guys could ever be.

Author and poet John Milton, author of "Paradise Lost", lost his first two wives in child birth. In 17th century England it was not uncommon for a women to die from complications and trauma suffered during labor. Up until the 60's 1 in every 10 women world wide, including in the West, died from complications relating to child bearing. In fact it's becoming an issue in the U.S today. The death rate for women during child birth is double what it was 25 years ago in our country. Birthing is still as dangerous as it was and ever will be. Lucy Baldwin, the wife of British Prime minister Stanley Baldwin (1929-36), helped rise awareness for women's health issues especially relating to pre-Natal, maternity and post maternity. She worked tirelessly to help provide safe and sterile environments for women to deliver their babies as well as hygiene care and breast feeding instruction following delivery. She also championed resources to help women receive proper nutrition during their pregnancies, because a strong mother was more likely to survive birth than a weak mother. She is most famous for her comparison of child birth to that of a man going off to war. she said, "Like in war the women who engages in child birth knows not whether she will return home alive." My wife's grandmother, Junie, who died about 5 years ago gave birth to 13 children and only 10 of them survived to adulthood. Junie delivered all but one of those babies at home on their family farm. I'm sure there were some tough and scary moments during those 13 deliveries, moments were she almost died, but that was just the way of life on the frontier.

Today for the most part child birth is a celebratory moment. We record it, we take pictures of it and post them on face book for our friends and the world to see. Our family and friends...even the pastor all come by the day of or the days following the birth of a new baby. Thats how it is in the West. In the "2/3rds" world, a.ka. the "third world, a.k.a "the rest of the world"thats not so much the case. For example in Sierra Leon it's during the pregnancy that all the friends and family show up to visit. Why? Because in Sierra Leon women have a 50/50 chance of surviving child birth. So why wait until your daughter, sister, cousin, niece, or even mother has delivered their baby to see them...chances are it might be to late. This is a tradition that continues in many other cultures around the world, in fact this is the reason Mary went to see her cousin Elizabeth when she had learned that Elizabeth was with Child. Needless to say giving birth or in other words, creating new life is risky business and requires sacrifice.

The words of Jesus as recorded in the Revelation of John reminds us that the sacrifice has already been made and like in birth it is through blood and water that we are made new, the waters of baptism and the blood of Jesus. John Reveals that Christ is the beginning, he is the end, he is eternal life so that all of us who have faith in Him share in eternal life. The end is no longer death, but eternal life!

Margaret Wise is a children's author who wrote during the middle part of the 20th cenutry. She wrote one of Rowan's favorite books, "Good night Moon" (1942). She also wrote another famous book, "Runaway Bunny" (1947). In this book a little bunny becomes angry with mother Rabbit. 

So he said to his mother, “I am running away.”

“If you run away,” said his mother, “I will run after you, for you are my little bunny.”

“If you run after me,” said the little bunny, “I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you.”

“If you become a fish in a trout stream,” said his mother, “I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.”

“I will become a rock,”

“And I will become a mountain climber and I will climb to where you are.”

“I will become a bird and fly away from you.”

“If you become a bird and fly away from me,” said his mother, “I will be a tree that you come home to.”

Praise God that through Christ we have a place for us, a place of new life and eternal life out side the circle. And praise God for our mothers who courageously gave, engendered and support life in us.

Happy Mothers Day,
Pastor Josh

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