I Believe in Life Everlasting

Revelation 21:1-6, 22:1-5
21Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” 5And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”6Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

22Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Several years ago, after my father died, we took his ashes to be scattered over my grandfather’s family’s grave plot behind Zion Hope Baptist Church in Crisp County, Georgia. The scattering of my father’s ashes was not what affected me as much as looking around and seeing all these tombstones of men and women dating back to the early 1900’s…all with my last name. There was even a Corporal John Stephens, a soldier who fought under both General Joseph Johnson and General John Bell Hood as the Union General Sherman marched from Chattanooga to Atlanta.  My grandfather told me that was his grandfather’s brother and died at home after the militia disbanded with the fall of Atlanta. Being at that cemetery and hearing my grandfather tell of his grandfather and their families gave me a sense of history about my own life. There is something powerful about knowing where you come from.

My grandfather, Rome Stephens (I called him Coach), told me of his childhood in Fitzgerald, Georgia and how all the businesses would close at noon and how he and his father would go fishing most afternoons. He shared about how my great-grandfather died in 1937 at 57 years old of a heart attack while at work. My grandfather was 15 at the time.  Coach also shared with me that at his wedding to my grandmother Edna when the minister asked if anyone had any reason why these two should not be married my great-grandfather on my grandmother’s side stood up and said, “He didn’t ask me if he could wed my daughter.” My grandfather was frozen in fear as silence gripped the house. My grandmother looked at my grandfather and the preacher and said, “Don’t pay any attention to him, he’s kidding around.”  That helps to explain a lot about my sense of humor.

Stories that tell us where we come from are stories of origin.  They have tremendous power to help us understand where we came from and why we are here. But stories of origin have counterparts: stories of destination.  Stories of destination tell us where we are going.  As meaningful as our stories of origin are our stories of destination are more powerful, shaping force.  Stories of destination point to ultimate destiny. They answer the question “Where are you going?” in a much broader sense: Where are you headed? In what direction is your life taking you? What is your true destination? Such stories are the counterpart of stories of origin.

The book of Revelation is a story of destination just as Genesis is a story of origin. The common center in both our stories of origin and destination is God – God is the center of both our stories of origin and our stories of destination.

The stories of my past are not the stories that give me hope…they merely help me understand who I am in the present. The stories that give me hope in the present are stories of where I am headed. Belief in “The resurrection of the body” is a powerful statement of hope to me and all of us who see our bodies failing and wasting away day by day. There is something deeply comforting to know that as my body breaks down and grows old, that in the end, I will receive a new body.
The reason why this last line is in our Apostle’s Creed each week, is to reconnect with our story of destination – we are headed somewhere particular. We are headed back to God. In the end, we will dwell with God just as we did in the beginning before the fall. God is the beginning and God is the end.

As we have journeyed through the Apostle’s Creed, we have been confronted with our core beliefs that we recite each week. Here, in the final line of the Creed, we are met with our story of destination. It is appropriate that the Creed begins with our story of origin and ends with our story of destination.

The Apostle’s Creed reflects our faith, but it does much more. It forms us each week because it gives us both our story of origin and our story of destination – and everything in between!

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