A.J. Tindall-Schlicht, Elder
Listen again to the beginning of our passage from Isaiah this morning: “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.”
New heavens, and a new Earth.
Who hasn’t wanted to start fresh? With the former things never remembered or coming to mind? I know I have. When things seem too hard, it seems like it would just be so easy to start over fresh someplace. Honestly, I’ve done it. And it did not bring me the release I sought. I couldn’t release what I needed to in order to obtain the renewal I thought I wanted.
I thought I was creating my own little holy mountain, where I could not be hurt or destroyed. A little holy mountain all to myself. And that was okay for a while. But it got lonely. And there was no renewal to be found there. Just myself, and the same patterns that had brought me there to begin with.
I still have that urge sometimes when I hear things on the news like members of the LGBTQ+ community being threatened in Texas and Florida and all over our nation. Yes, in 2022, the queer community is still fighting to be seen as fully human and deserving of dignity and respect. It makes me feel like retreating back to my little community of one.
But the community that God is speaking about in this passage is not a community of one—it is a community of many. All the people.
God says, “I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy and its people as a delight.” And I think that in the church today, this is actually a really revolutionary idea. Joy and delight. We focus so much on suffering and loss, and constantly wondering if we are good enough, doing enough, if we are holy enough. Especially this week, we focus on the pain Jesus went through and the sacrifice he made for us—the image of Christ on the cross. It’s literally in the front of many churches. Christ on the cross. We are so prone to focus on the negative; to focus on the things that make us different—the things that set us apart from one another. To hide behind labels and deny the humanity of those who we disagree with…
Sometimes our joy gets lost.
But this passage reinforces it: God wants us to be happy and fulfilled. Not to just be okay. Not to just be making it through, hiding parts of ourselves, or having endless arguments over who gets to use what pronouns. God wants us to be happy and fulfilled. Renewed. That is GOD’s joy and GOD’s delight.
This morning as we celebrate Easter, Jesus’ triumph over death, that is what I urge you to remember. We are God’s joy and God’s delight. All of us. The wolves, and the lambs. The builders and the inhabiters. The planters and the eaters. Not just the Christians. Not just the people in power. Not just the wealthy, or the white, or the straight, or the abled, or the young, or the cisgendered. ALL of us. We are ALL the heirs of the people of Jerusalem through Jesus. We are all here on this holy mountain, and we must find a way to get along, because God says there shall be no hurt or destruction here, not for queer people, or news pundits, or the parents of trans kids, or conservative politicians. Jesus’ resurrection on this Easter morning is a new beginning for us all, if we take it—a new chance at the joy and delight that God wants for each of us.
Easter is our fresh start.
Easter is our renewal.
Easter is our way to our own joy and delight.
New heavens and new Earth, for all of us.