The words of the Prophet Isaiah sound wonderful to us. I am building a New Heaven and a New Earth. A place for people where there will be no more weeping, no more sorrow. We can dream about such a place when we are going through hardship and trying to endure pain whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual. We might wonder whether such a place can exist, certainly not in this life it seems. Granted it is a beautiful world we live in, but it is far from perfect.
But what Isaiah is describing is not heaven, a place we cannot expect to see until we die, instead he is talking about a new way of being, a place we can encounter here and now if we turn, and place our faith in God
Trust in God is at the heart of our readings today. Isaiah was speaking to a small remnant of people who had maintained their faithfulness while so many others had lost hope. Isaiah’s message was for everyone but so many had turned their backs and no longer cared to know that even in the most difficult times God was always with them, reaching out, calling to them.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus experiences similar rejection, even from those who should have known him best. But when he encounters the people of Samaria and of Galilee he discover people of faith, people who are longing to hear what he is teaching, not because of signs and miracles but because they know that their lives are better, simply because they believe.
The official who asks Jesus to come and heal his son certainly wanted Jesus to come with him and stand at his child’s bedside to perform a miracle before his eyes the way that he had heard Jesus could do. But when Jesus looked at him and said, “your son will be well” he did not hesitate, he returned home immediately to find that it was exactly as Jesus had spoken, in his heart he knew that all would be well.
Our faith does not necessarily change the world directly, but it does change us. It allows us to stand up and keep going even when the wind prevails against us. Our faith reminds us that we are not alone and that our strength is not our own. It comes from knowing that whatever happens God is at our side. With this strength we can reshape our world and find its meaning even in our darkest moments.
Just recently a family approached me and asked for a blessing as they traveled home to their community. They had just experienced the sudden and tragic loss of a brother and were deeply grieving. Though their sorrow was evident, I was more struck by the resilience that was exhibited as they stood before me and asked for prayer so that they could deal with what they were facing. No, my prayer would not restore their brother to life, but it would help remind them of the source of the power that was in them to withstand the cruel blows that sometime come in this life. It would help remind them that God was close and that with the help of God they would get through this together, as a family.
Turn to God in your sorrow, know that the Lord is near. Don’t let the anxiety of these present days wear you down but know that God is preparing an new Heaven and a New Earth for all those who believe.