Life Everlasting Now
Revelation 21:10, 21:22-22:5
Sermon delivered by Shirley Lin on May 9, 2010 at Taiwan Presbyterian Church of Greater Boston
(In Chinese, translated by Ken Sun)
Last week, I had to write a paper on my life philosophy. It was for a psychology class. The reason that I had to write it was because we were learning about different types of therapies and we had to decide which one we liked the most. There is not a right answer or a wrong answer in trying to determine which school of thought is best because everybody is different and how we see and experience the world. There are more than 15 schools of therapy and each is beneficial in their own way. Through our life philosophies, my classmates and I learned about each other’s life and it was in the process of sharing with each other the story of our lives that I learned more about the person who was talking. It became clear to me why each person picked the ones they did. In other words, our experiences give life to how we approach the world. Our life philosophy that is created out of experience shapes who we are.
In my reflection on my life, I began with a memory I had as a child. It was 1989 and my family had just moved to the United States. I was about to start my first day of second grade. “You will always have to work harder because this is not your country,” said my mother. I don’t think she remembers that, but I think it has defined who I was to become on that day.
Today is Mother’s Day. Mother’s day is about celebrating all the things that mothers do for us, day in and day out, because being a mother is one of the most underappreciated jobs there is out there. According to a study by salary.com, the salary for a stay-at-home mom would come to about $138,095.
Now, I am aware that we do not always get along with our mothers. I know that not all mothers are nurturing and loving—what we picture mothers to be. I know there are mothers that are mean, abusive, and hateful toward their children or mothers who just do not care about the welfare of their children. However, that’s not what mother’s day is about. Yes, it is a celebration of mothers, but for me, it is more like a remembrance.
All mothers, whether she is good or bad, mark our lives in a very concrete ways. Whether you like your mother or not, there can be no denying that our mothers have forever left their imprint on our personalities and our character.
On that fateful day, with that one conversation, that I still remember over twenty years later, I thought: Why did I have to work harder? Why can’t I just be exactly who I am or want to be? I was not going to be defined by anybody else nor be put in a box. Though it was not something that I explicitly decided to do at the tender age of 7, this streak of defiance stayed with me my entire life.
Today’s passage is one that is found in the book of Revelation. This is a book all about the future—the beginning of the end of times. Today, we read about what John is seeing—the new world to come, where we are living in the physical presence of God. For me, John is seeing heaven. In the time to come, there will be no need for a temple—a place of worship, because God is physically there, physically with us. We will be able to see God with our very own eyes. God will be the one who takes the reins of the world so that there will be no more lies and no more suffering.
There will be glory, honor, truth, life, and healing.
That’s not the way things are right now, is it?
In fact, this is what the world is missing, everywhere we look, everywhere around us. From Wall Street to immigration, healthcare to natural disasters, we know that the problems of this world run rampant. But, what we read today gives me great hope. We do not always have to live in a world that is full of badness. We do not always have to live in fear, as we sometimes do in the moment.
Before we were born, we were in the protective womb of our mothers. When God created this world, it was in the protective garden that was Eden. However, things became different after we were born, after we were banished from Eden. But this does not have to be the way things are. Eventually, God reconciles with us because Jesus is there for us, shining His light on the world. Eventually, we will return to a life with God.
With Mother’s Day, it is appropriate to remember what our mothers have given us—the gift of life. Perhaps you don’t get along with your mother. Maybe there is a lot of hurt and pain in your relationship—just like the relationship we have with God sometimes. But we don’t have to wait, because even though the spirit shows us what is to come, it is not a call to ignore what is in the present. The spirit shows us what God will do for us, or, what we need to strive for before this happens.
The passage is full of symbols for life. There is the river of the water of life, the tree of life which produces fruits to feed the world and leaves to heal the nations. God is life. God gives us life. God shines in our lives. This isn’t a story told to us to tell us to give up hope for this world. Rather, it is telling us how paradise really is perhaps so that we can copy it for ourselves.
Yes, we will eventually have eternal, everlasting life in God, where we will be in His presence, where things will be good and perfect. But right now—well, right now is about living this life. The life we were given, by God, to live in this world, as broken and sinful as it is; the life which we were born into through the labor of our mothers.
In our future, God will be physically present among us. Yet, even now, even in this world, the spirit of God is with us, and more importantly, within us. And what Jesus called us to do is to allow God’s light to shine through. We need not wait for God to bring us light.
We need not wait for God to bring us life and food and healing.
Because as Christians, the light of God is within us, shining through us. As Christians, we cannot help but do what God wants us to do—to be faithful servants. And as sons and daughters, we cannot help but have the mark of our mothers engraved on our souls.
On Mother’s Day, we remember who God has created us to be.
On Mother’s Day, we remember the life that our mothers have given us to live.
So today, I encourage you to remember that no matter what the relationship we have with our mothers, it is she who gave us life, for which we shall be forever grateful, and to think of paradise and ask God to help us live our lives as though we are already there. Go forth and live your life in a way that gives life, a life that feeds the hungry, that heals the broken, that brings truth to lies, and brings light into the darkness.