New Heaven, New Earth

You may be craving some sense of stability or peace these days; change is a constant in our lives, especially if you’re paying attention to the news. Take a moment to read this reflection from Deacon David about how recent political events have impacted his own thinking….

 

New Heaven, New Earth      

The events of the last week call for careful thinking about enemies, anxieties, advocacy, and equilibrium.

 

I was dismayed to hear North Korea’s Chairman speak of “enveloping fire” directed at America and our President threaten “fire and fury” in reply. Warlike rhetoric, no matter who uses it, is terrifying.

 

I’m looking for a calming but energizing way to think about these events and the responsibility of faithful people to guide political leaders. Our civic responsibility is inescapable when we recognize the essential linkage of energy and matter, spirit and action, hope and engagement—what the ancients called “heaven and earth.” The expression brings to mind a quote from writer Joyce Carol Oates:

“What appears to be a breaking down of civilization may well be simply the breaking up of old forms by life itself” (1974. New Heaven, New Earth: The Visionary Experience in Literature).

This Sunday’s readings are about experiences of heaven and earth in turbulent times. 1 Kings tells the story of Elijah taking shelter from wind, earthquake, and fire in a cave on Mt. Sinai. When the turmoil subsides, he is aware of a tiny, whispering sound, and emerges from the cave to listen.

 

If I resist the temptation to retreat into a cave of my own I can look and listen for what Oates called “the breaking up of old forms by life itself.” Global communication, United Nations resolutions, trade negotiations, and diplomatic relationships are examples of life itself breaking up the old patterns of belligerence and disengagement. When old patterns are inadequate and life threatening, new patterns become necessities.

 

What does this have to do with us? Listen to this Sunday’s responsive reading of Psalm 85. The Psalmist wrote “Kindness and truth shall meet; / justice and peace shall kiss. / Truth shall spring out of the earth, / and justice shall look down from heaven.” This ancient writer links values that human beings are tempted to ignore and dismiss. The Psalmist proclaims the unity of elements at first glance incompatible: kindness and truth, justice and peace.

 

The truth that is springing out of the earth today is the absolute necessity of stable relationships among nations. The justice that is looking down from heaven—we might say, calling out from our hearts—is a vision and hope for right relationships among all nations and all peoples. Communicating a vision and hope for diplomatic relations and tough love among nations to the politicians who serve us is a way to point toward a New Heaven and advocate for a New Earth. Our voices are the medium by which real justice will look down from heaven.

 

This Sunday’s gospel recalls Jesus walking on the stormy sea, inviting Peter to join him out over the chaotic waves. To call for new patterns of dealing with belligerent neighbors during chaotic times in our global village is a way we can become co-creators of new heaven and a new earth. Acts of co-creation are always practical mental health strategies for calming our nerves and keeping our balance.


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