APC 27th June 2021 Somewhere over the Rainbow – (Part 3)
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Sunday morning worship. Three weeks ago we began a 3 part series entitled “Somewhere over the rainbow.” So far we have discovered that when we die, our souls or spirits will go to live in the current heaven which is a real and physical place. There we will probably have some recognisable form and we will in some way be aware of what’s happening to our loved ones on earth. It may be that this intermediate place will be much like this earth and we will be aware of time. At some point in the future, this heaven will be joined to the new redeemed universe to form the new heavens and earth. On that day we will be clothed with our new resurrected bodies that will be like Christ’s resurrected body. Today we are going to ask, “Who are we and what will we do in the new heaven and earth?” But to begin, as always, we are going to talk to God. So let’s pray…
Sovereign God, we praise you that you are able to do more than we can ever ask or imagine – where we can do so little, you can do so much. When we can do nothing, you can do everything. Teach us to believe that, not just with our heads but in our hearts.
When life seems dark, the future frightening, our problems insurmountable, and our resources to meet them all too few, we praise you that you are able to see us through.
When life feels good, the days ahead full f promise, our worries are few and our joys many, we praise you that you are able to offer more still.
When loving is hard, caring involves pain, sharing means sacrifice and believing entails cost, we praise you that you are able to give us strength.
When loving is easy, our relationships bring joy, our friends bring pleasure and our faith brings rewards, we praise you that you are able to bring yet greater happiness.
When hopes are dashed, dreams lie broken, visons have faded, and plans are thwarted, we praise you that you are able to bring new purpose.
When opportunities excite us, prospects beckon, possibilities unfold, and challenges present themselves, we praise you that you are able to help us to grasp them.
Sovereign God, in these things and so many more, you are able not simply to meet our needs but to transform our lives – able to bless us beyond words.
Receive our praise and teach us that whatever we face, whether good or bad, whether we feel able to meet it or not, you are able to do more than we can ever ask or think of!
Join with me now as we say the words of the Lord’s Prayer together…
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Opening Song Amazing Grace Sharon and Elaine
If you would like to book a place at church next Sunday please do text Aleida before Friday evening of this week.
If you would like to help with readings, prayers or music and have somehow escaped my attention please don’t be afraid to say to me.
I will be taking my holidays in July and I’ve lined up four of your favourite speakers to lead our worship each Sunday. There will be Jim Carson, Aleida, Terry Price and Gary Nesbitt.
In the event of pastoral emergencies the Rev Gary McDowell in Greystones will be on standby. Please contact our Clerk of Session Mrs Edna Crammond if you require the services of Gary while I am away.
If everything continues with the easing of restrictions we hope to start back with our Sunday School, Youth and other activities in September.
Now that our AV system is up and running smoothly we will be Livestreaming the services. You will be able to view the Livestream on our website and on our Facebook Page.
I would like to say a huge thank you for all of your support over this last year which has been a very difficult period for us all and for your continued generosity to our congregation in so many ways. I look forward to a good rest over the next few weeks and to being able to recommence many of our normal activities in the near future.
Kid’s Talk Heaven (Things that are in heaven) Michael
Kid’s Colouring Tara to help kids
Introduction to the Bible Readings Michael
The bible doesn’t tell us everything about what life will be like in the new heaven and earth. So sit back as Sandra, Isaac and Rebekah read a few bible passages which give us a few hints…
Lesson 1 Romans 8 v 18-25 and 2 Peter 3 v 10-14 Sandra
Lesson 2 John 20 v 24-30 and John 21 v 4-11 Isaac
Lesson 3 Rev 21 v 1-14 and Rev 22 v 1-6 Rebekah
Somewhere over the rainbow – “Who are we and what will we do in the new heaven and the new earth?”
“When I was a boy, the thought of heaven used to frighten me more than the thought of hell. I pictured heaven as a place where time would be perpetual Sundays, with perpetual services from which there would be no escape.”
Like David Lloyd George, for many people the thought of an eternal heaven is worse than the fear of dying. That’s because they believe heaven to be a place where we will have little else to do except float around on clouds, spending all of our time in prayer or singing praises to God. The far-side cartoon of a man with wings, sitting on a cloud, head in his hands and the caption, “I wish I’d brought a magazine!” sums it up well.
But I want to shout it from the rooftops this morning, “Heaven will be not be boring!” In fact, what I have discovered about our eternal living environment over this last few years has filled me with such hope and inspiration that I’ve no fear of dying. That’s because I have found that rather than sitting around on clouds playing harps all day long, in the new heaven and earth we are much more likely to be sitting in a wild meadow, enjoying a beautiful picnic and sipping harp or whatever else might be your favourite tipple, in moderation of course!
That’s because, what God has planned for our eternal future is not some unnatural and unfamiliar existence. It is the existence that He planned for humanity from the very beginning- To live as bodily human beings, enjoying all the things we currently love about life, people and nature but without all of the things that currently try to rob us of enjoyment such as disease, suffering, pain and death.
Martyn Lloyd Jones puts it like this- “One day, everything will be glorified, even nature itself. And that seems to me to be the biblical teaching about the eternal state; that what we call ‘heaven’ is life in this perfect world as God intended humanity to live it. When God put Adam in paradise at the beginning, Adam fell and all fell with him, but men and women are meant to live in the body and will live in a glorified body in a glorified world and God will be with them.”
You see, whatever the so-called ‘disembodied’ life in the intermediate state or the present heaven will be like when we die, this is not where or how we will spend most of eternity. Scripture teaches us that a day is coming in the future when Christ will return to earth. On that day, the remains of our dead bodies will be somehow miraculously raised from the dust of the earth and will be used to fashion for us an amazing, transformed resurrection body which will be joined with our soul or spirit. This new body of ours will be exactly like the resurrection body of our Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the great things this means is that we will retain our identity! Just as the disciples and other people recognised Jesus when he rose, so too when we are raised, you will be you, and I will be me! Whether or not, as many of the early church fathers believed, we will be the optimal age of between 30-33, we can’t be certain. For example, the prophet Isaiah suggests that in the new heaven and earth the lion the lamb and the little child will play safely together. This could mean that parents who have lost the opportunity of raising their children on earth may get that chance in the new heaven and earth! It may be that our bodies will be ageless but we will still recognise people very clearly as the people we have known and loved on earth.
Whatever age we are or aren’t in heaven, we will still be able to catch up with our friends and family and also to have coffee with some of our greatest heroes. There will be any amount of family gatherings and of occasions just to get the girls together. There will be any number of concerts, worship events and sporting occasions to attend. I’m sure there’ll be a long queue to sign up for the writing class run by J.R. Tolkien and that tickets for Bach’s live concert will be like gold dust!
What’s also certain is that our bodies will be physical. Like Jesus, we will have faces and limbs that can be seen and touched. We will be able to eat and drink and walk and talk. We will still have our own personalities and all of the good characteristics that make us who we are and wonderfully different from anyone else, will still be there. There will be people from every tribe and every nation and from every point of history. How amazing it will be to discuss the wonders of engineering with some of the ancient Egyptians, to go sailing with a Viking, or ask a caveman what it was like living in the age of dinosaurs.
At the same time, our resurrection bodies will be wonderfully better than our earthly bodies. They won’t need glasses. They won’t feel pain. They won’t need injections to control their sugar levels or tablets to monitor their blood pressure. It may be that the leaves from the tree of life will keep us eternally healthy and vibrant. Since we will be perfect and filled with the glory of God, it may be that we will literally shine, in a similar way to how Jesus’ body shone at his transfiguration.
What’s more, it might be that our transformed resurrection bodies may also enable us, like Jesus, to do things we were never capable of doing before. Just as Jesus was able to appear in a room and disappear somewhere else, could it be that our new resurrected bodies will enable us to time travel to the farthest galaxy or meet with a friend in an instant? Will we be able to run as fast as a cheetah, jump as high as a flea, or soar like an eagle? No one knows for certain. It may be that supernatural abilities will be reserved for the Master because He is Divine. But isn’t the possibility tantalising?!
Not only is it such a relief to know that we will not lose our identity and that people will be familiar in the future, it is also a great source of excitement and anticipation to realise that our heavenly environment will probably be just like what we are used to on this earth but without any of the bad bits. That’s because scripture teaches us that when Christ returns the present or intermediate heaven, will come down and merge with this present earth. Heaven will come to earth to form the new heaven and earth. The image of our final destination is one of incarnation not of disembodiment in some wispy parallel universe!
So in Revelation 21 we read that as the present heaven comes to earth, The Holy City of the New Jerusalem which is currently in heaven will become part of this world. The dimensions of this city are that it will be a 1400 mile cube. That’s a ground level of nearly two million square miles. If it has many levels it could literally house billions of people. Even if these numbers are purely figurative, they still leave us with the impression that there will be plenty of room. The New Jerusalem will be a capital city of unparalleled beauty and magnificence. Like any city it will have streets and avenues, parks and rivers, buildings and dwellings. In fact it seems probable that the original Eden, now in heaven, will form part of this New Jerusalem much like a central park. This will contain the river of life and the tree of life, which presumably will enable us to live forever in full health and vibrancy. While God’s presence will be everywhere, He will dwell in this city and people and Kings will be able to come from the far flung reaches of the universe to present Him with gifts and to worship Him.
As well as having a magnificent capital city, the new heaven and earth will have so many other regions for us to explore, inhabit and look after. In many ways it will be just like the universe we currently know and love- Niagara Falls, The Himalayas, The Arctic Circle, Kilimanjaro, the Giant’s Causeway. These and so many other wonders of the universe will all be there. At the same time, when Christ returns, this earth will be amazingly redeemed, set free from all that is bad because of the curse of sin, and restored to what it was like at the beginning when God first created it. In Chapter 8 of his letter to the Romans St. Paul says that we, as well as the entire universe, feel the weight of sin’s curse, and we are groaning to be set free and restored to how God originally intended everything to be.
Some Christians, like Lutherans for example, interpret the references to fire in 2 Peter and the phrase “the earth will be no more” in Revelation 21, to suggest that God will bring about this transformation through the complete destruction of the current universe and the creation of a completely new cosmos. However, most reformed Christians understand the numerous verses that relate to this subject in a different way. They believe that to suggest that God will completely destroy this universe would go against the truth that everything God made originally is essentially good. Therefore what they believe will happen, is that through some sort of fiery cleansing, God will eradicate all that is broken and tainted in our current universe. He will then allow the blossoming of a completely restored and repainted universe so that the world, the stars the planets and the galaxies will be wonderfully brought back to their former glory and perfection. Like any restoration project, it may be that there may be a few wonderful new additions or the removal of a few things that are no longer needed, but in essence, our eternal home will be exactly like everything we currently love about life in this world.
We’ll still be able to enjoy the fragrance of our favourite flowers, take a holiday to all the places we have never seen. We’ll still be able to play a round of golf, climb a mountain, go fishing, swim in a lake, build a sandcastle, sip a fine wine, play chess, learn a new instrument and all the things that we currently love about life. Since everything is created by God, essentially all of life is spiritual and all of life is good. That means that all of that which is good about God’s creation will remain unchanged in the future. The new heaven and earth will not be some super-spiritual existence where none of what we currently do will matter anymore or where everything is unfamiliar. In fact scripture teaches the very opposite is true.
From the very beginning, God made us with human bodies to live in a physical universe. This is what we were made for and this is why we cling so much to this earth and why we are so afraid to let go and die. But the good news is we don’t have to be afraid of death because what’s ahead of us is not going to be weirdly different from what we currently know and love. Scripture teaches that this future new heaven and new earth will be so much like the life that we currently enjoy.
All of the intellectual and creative characteristics of who God has made us and what it means to be human will still be there. So we will be able to continue to study, to read books, go to classes and learn new things. We will have all the time in the world to plan and create and build and discover. We will have work to do that will be stimulating and interesting. Scripture teaches us that God will allow us to rule and coordinate life in the universe under His guidance. He will give us new roles and responsibilities. We will have time to rest and to play, to listen to music or create new music, to sing and laugh and cook and entertain, to BBQ and bake and make and eat pizza. We will still play sport competitively and enjoy the thrill of driving fast without the associated dangers. We will take holidays, visit new places, research time travel, design buildings and visit other galaxies. There will be plants to tend and animals to look after and enjoy. It may be that in addition to being reunited with long lost family and friends we will also be reunited with our beloved pets. Why not? They mean so much to us on earth and are such a gift from God, why would He not raise them with us? That’s certainly something that the early church fathers thought possible because they believed that while different from humans, animals still had an animal soul. It may be that like some of the creatures we read about in Revelation or even the story of Balaam’s donkey, that the amazing fantasies of Lewis and Tolkien will come true. It may be that animals will be able to talk to us in the future. We just don’t know. Nothing is impossible with God, so let me encourage you to dream dreams of what heaven will be like and know that it will be wonderfully similar to what we currently enjoy about everything in this life but amazingly better and more spectacular and exciting in so many ways. The new heaven and earth will be full of culture, creative arts, entertainment, sports, crafts, technology, research and learning, discovery and fun. Trust me, it will be anything but boring.
The New heaven and the new earth will be gloriously earthy, wonderfully familiar but it will also be fabulously different. Any tears will only ever be tears of joy for there will be no more suffering, no more devastating floods or earthquakes. No more disease or death. No more misunderstandings that lead to conflict and division, hurt and heartache. Confused minds will be renewed, disabled bodies will be restored. Animals will no longer tear each other apart, the beauty of a rose will not be marred by its thorn.
And of course the most wonderfully different thing about the new heaven and the new earth is that we will be able to see, and worship and speak to God without any of the limitations that we currently experience. At best our worship and knowledge of God is like looking into a steamed up mirror when we emerge from the shower. But one day, says St Paul, we will see God clearly and we will be able to worship Him perfectly. On this earth, because we are flawed, at times we forget God or we forget to give Him thanks for all the good things He gives us, for all the talents and intelligence that he has granted us. But one day all that will be different. We will appreciate all that we are and have. We will do all that we do and enjoy all that we enjoy about life in the continual knowledge that everything we have is from God. So heaven will not be a perpetual church service. All of life will be perfectly spiritual and will give glory and happiness to God because of the way that we enjoy and participate in it. Of course there will be times when we will gather around the throne of God, giving thanks to Jesus for all that he has done for us. There will be times when we will gather with people from every tribe and nation and culture and generation to enjoy the most amazing worship experience ever. But unlike on earth, these times will not seem in any way too long, or boring or irrelevant or whatever. For we will be perfect, our lives will be perfect and we will be mesmerised by the perception of the One who loved us and gave Himself for us….
On that day we will sing a new song,
“You are worthy our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power for you created all things. Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and glory and honour and blessing!”
So we pray, “Come Lord Jesus Come….”
Song I love you Lord x2 Rebecca, Kate and Laura
Prayers for others Michael
Thank God for helping us all through this very difficult and for the greater freedoms we have enjoyed.
Thank God for the development of vaccines and all who have administered them.
Pray for all health care workers and ask that they may experience rest and refreshment over the summer.
Pray for those who have been bereaved in this last year.
Pray for all who are sick and especially those in hospital.
Pray for students who are receiving results and making decisions about college courses.
Pray for students finishing school and college and applying for jobs in an increasingly competitive market.
Thank God for everyone who has helped with our worship services. May each one find some time to rest and recharge over the summer.
Thank God for the people who have helped us in the past and who will be leading services in July.
Pray for our young people and ask that you would give us wisdom to know how best to encourage them in these days.
Pray for wisdom for our Kirk Session as we meet to discuss the way resuming of activities in the months ahead.
Pray for wisdom for our government and for the Executive in Northern Ireland and ask for wisdom, good relationships, and peace.
Pray for the Covid situation in India and especially for our partners in Gujarat.
SILENCE – Bring own prayers to God.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thank you for logging on. I hope you found today helpful.
But to close, let me share with a benediction after which I invite you to say the grace together…
Do not be afraid.
The kingdom of heaven comes to change and transform us,
To reshape the world according to God’s reconciling will.
So go forth to bear witness to this community of love.
And May the grace of the lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and forever more, Amen.
EXIT Lesley to play some music while people are exiting.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.