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Evan Earwicker: Exile Is Not The End, Revelation 21:3-5

July 25, 2022

Audio Recording

Evan Earwicker: Exile Is Not The End, Revelation 21:3-5

Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us. Good morning, everybody. It's great to be with you. My name is Evan. I'm one of your senior pastors and, I just do want to extend as pastor Dave did, a really warm welcome to everybody, especially those who are visiting our first time here. you know, we really, we really double down on, just the fact that we're loved by God in our current state. You know, I think sometimes it's easy to imagine a God who loves us unconditionally in our ideal state. but that's, that's a condition, right? So an unconditional love for you means that right, where you're at today is the exact spot, where God's love is for you and pursuing you and, is able to cover you today. And so we wanna welcome you into that kind of place today at Westside.

00:51 and even though watching online, just say you're loved by God. and you don't have to do anything to change, to get better, to qualify, or, put yourself in a place where you can receive that love today. It's for you, it's for you. and I think that is what gives me hope and what allows me to stand on this stage today is because the love of God has been so graciously poured out in my life. And I hope that's the case for you today, too. well today we are sitting off our, youth and leaders and worship teams to camp out on the O ultra coast. And it's been a couple years since we've done a full blown summer camp with, youth. And so, I do wanna take a moment and, and pray for them. Pray for pastor Josh and Emily and their team as a former Westside youth, pastor myself.

01:36 I just wanna say that I'm so grateful that I'm not going that's, that is Josh and Emily and their team, all the confidence in the world and their leadership. I, I would tell one story from my summer camp, days, years ago, we had trouble, with our transportation company, getting buses to take us to camp. And so about six weeks before camp, we pivoted from a, a far away camp and decided to do summer camp right here on the campus called a tent city. And one of the, attractions at this summer camp that we did here on the property was we created a giant slip and slide off the hill behind the student center over on that side of the property. And this is just like a normal hill with trees and bushes. And it was so thrown together this whole camp.

02:20 I hope this doesn't like lower your confidence in me as a leader, the camp was so thrown together, that we didn't even have time to like really clear it. So we had this, this plastic that kind of weaved in between trees on the way down. It took less than 45 minutes for this sweet young girl to break her ankle on that slip and slide. And I thought, this is not gonna go well the first night, we get all the kids in their tents and, the middle school boys are out on the gravel. Yeah, the gravel out here in this parking lot. And at about four in the morning, I get up and I do some rounds to make sure everybody's where they're supposed to be. I come in the student center and we have four adult men leaders that were supposed to be out with the middle schoolers.

03:02 They're sleeping in the student center and I said, who's with the kids. And they said, we don't know. And so we had over 60 middle school boys by themselves, out in the parking lot. My goodness. So now that you know, the kind of leader that I am, we're gonna no, but it's great. I wanna pray for this, group as they go. today, we just wanna believe that God's gonna really do some beautiful things. both in, in, in drawing kids closer to, his love for them, but also in relationship and build friendships with each other. So Jesus, today we, we do pray for all the kids, that are getting ready right now. As I speak over in the other room, to load onto buses and head out to camp, Jesus, would you speak to them, would you, help them know that your love is for them?

03:49 And they're significant because their love by God and, even as they, maybe are struggling, some are struggling to, to build relationships and friendships that there'd be some real connections made, that would draw kids into a strong community over the next few days. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen. Amen. Well, speaking of camping, I love camping. We just got back from a family trip with our extended family to Cape lookout over on the coast and we camp, well, we bring our trailer and it has some pop down tent beds on either end. And so we got settled last weekend up at Cape lookout. And, we, we go to bed and at about two in the morning, we start hearing noises. And of course, when you're out in the woods, that likely means an animal. And so we weren't sure what was going on or what kind of animal it was.

04:37 And, but we're listening to this, this, this kind of cracking, popping sound happening outside the, the tent and the trailer. And so, two o'clock in the morning, I, I go over to the edge of the, the, the tent pop out and I unzip it. And what I find and what I see is a very well fed raccoon sitting on our picnic table. and we didn't leave food out. I mean, we're not stupid, but what we did leave out was all of our cans of drinks and this healthy, healthy raccoon, was going through and there was a box of seltzer water. And what had happened clearly is he had started tearing open these cans of seltzer water and finding water in it, discarding them. And then he had made his way to the next box, which was bright red and full of sweet, sweet Coca-Cola.

05:27 And I'm watching, I'm watching this happen in real time, and I'm not exaggerating as this raccoon is, is tearing open these cans of Coke. And they're spraying the side of my trailer, like multiples. We have, I have pictures of, of, it's layer where all these, these cans of Coke, he took them to after he was, I mean, he's CRA, it's like super bowl party for him, you know, . And so I'm thinking, what do I do? Cuz there's tents everywhere. I don't want to yell or make noise to scare this raccoon off. And so I'm like, do I go, should I go out and, and scare this raccoon off? And then it was dark so hard to tell, pretty sure we locked eyes and the body language and the eye contact from that raccoon said, don't you dare bro. This is my house and then he lit a cigarette and no, I'm just kidding.

06:11 This is my, I was clearly the one that was out of place that was a comfortable raccoon. And I was listening last week, pastor Ben talked about his family vacation to Disneyland, you know, and they had this wonderful time and, and his daughter and him went on what the, little mermaid ride. And then he made a light saver with his son. Well, I want a vacation too. And I'm in danger of having rabies. And that's the difference between me and pastor Ben. So, that was a stupid joke. It was a stupid joke, the first service, and it was a stupid joke, the second one as well. But here's the thing we're talking about. Exiles. We're gonna wrap up the series today about this idea that, that in the Bible, the majority of our scriptures were composed and compiled. if I can get this to work there it is.

07:02 The majority of the Bible is composed by exiles, Wanderers and slaves. This idea that, that those who were putting together, the page of scripture that we read today, especially in the Babylonian exile in the old Testament, which we've been really diving into these last seven weeks, they were torn from their home. They were experiencing life through the lens of a place that was not their home. their stuff was there. Their lives were there. They settled there. And yet there was something, that was causing dissonance because this place where they were taken was not home. And so as we read the Bible, we have to read it through this lens of people who are far from home. They're living life, they're experiencing God, they're, they're turning their hearts towards heaven. And yet they know that everything they see around them is not what they were designed and created to be.

07:54 And the whole story really of the Bible from Genesis chapter three, all the way to revelation is the story of a God who is desperately and furiously and recklessly in pursuit of reuniting humanity with himself in home. And so this is the lens by which we see not only the stories of the Bible, we see our understanding of God shaped and formed is this idea that we too are exiles, not because, you know, we're beat down or, or, this place is, is, is mean to us or people don't understand Christianity, not because of that, but because the place that we are in is not the kingdom of God yet. And so we cannot put onto, the structure and the scaffolding of the systems of the world around us. We cannot put our hopes and our dreams and our faith in it, cuz it's not strong enough to hold up the weight of all the hopes in our hearts.

08:46 Instead, we look for a stronger kingdom, a stronger scaffolding, a stronger structure to put the weight of our hopes and our future on. And that is something that Jesus talked about a lot, the kingdom of God. And so this changes how we approach, society and culture around us. It changes how we view our neighbors when we disagree with their worldview, it changes, how we interact and how we, we pray for those who are, are maybe not on the same page as us. in the old Testament, we've read over these last weeks that that we are called to contribute and to plant gardens as Jeremiah talks about and we're to pray for the peace, the Shalom of the place where we are sent to in exile, but all the, all the time and all the while, as we saw in Daniel with Shara Micha at a bit Togo, as we've seen in the new Testament, in the Roman empire, all the while, our, our loyalty and our ultimate allegiance lies with God alone.

09:44 And so we learn how to love and we learn how to live and we learn how to settle in, in a place that is far from home as we seek the kingdom of God, even when it is far off. And so I want to, go to Matthew chapter four, if you have a Bible, you can go to Matthew chapter four. We're gonna look at this, this just a brief moment in the story of Jesus. in Matthew chapter four, Jesus has, just begun to step into his ministry up until this point as a child and a, a young man he's grown up in a backwater town called Nazareth. It is of no consequence to the Roman empire in which it resides, in complete obscurity. Jesus is raised and now, at about 30 years old, he begins the process of stepping into his ministry and to kick it off.

10:31 He gets baptized by John the Baptist, and then he, is led out into the wilderness where he fasts for 40 days. And it's in this time of fasting where we pick up Matthew's story. And it's a very colorful, dramatic moment where Jesus is absolutely fatigued and exhausted from fasting. And he has this encounter, this, this supernatural encounter where he, he has a conversation with the devil. And it's very interesting how, Matthew talks about it in chapter four, verse eight, it says the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this, I will give you. He said, if you bow down and worship me, Jesus said to him away from me, Satan for it is written worship the Lord, your God, and serve him only. It's interesting. I wanna point this out about this, this moment in this conversation between Jesus and the devil that the devil is offering Jesus, all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor and Jesus doesn't argue the point about who owns them.

11:35 You see that the devil doesn't say, Hey, you can have all these kingdom in Jesus, excuse me, sir. I own those kingdoms. Doesn't say that he doesn't argue the point about the kingdoms of the world because the systems and the kingdoms of the empires of the earth actually do belong to someone other than Jesus. Instead, Jesus, doesn't, engage in this back and forth about the ownership of these systems. Instead he says, no, this isn't a question about who owns this. This is a question about who owns this is what was true for Jesus and true for us. The central question for Jesus. Wasn't what belongs to me. It was to whom do I belong. We will constantly be pulled into this idea that success, even in our faith, is to take over the systems and the power structures of the world around us. And that actually based on Matthew chapter four is a trap of the enemy because when we get caught up in struggling over power structures of the world, many times it comes at the expense, our worship and our allegiance to God.

12:51 And so Jesus response is one that we are invited to share with him when we are tempted to think that the power structures and gaining, you know, wealth and power and political gain and all these things are gonna be the way that the kingdom comes. We are reminded like Jesus did to respond and say, my worship is for God alone in my allegiance. And Mylo, doesn't lie in any other system. Then my worship to God. And this is the ethic of the exile. This is the heart of Jesus. This is the way of Jesus for us as exiles to walk in and live in is this idea that our worship comes first and this is a struggle. This is not easy. it is so seductive to step into the idea that if we can just control more and gain more and obtain more, that somehow we're gonna leverage that for use in God's economy.

13:47 And what Jesus says is it's worship first he's after our hearts. Well, I wanna share, today, a story of one of the disciples, the discipled, John, John traditionally was known as one of the youngest of Jesus disciples, him and his brother, James, were fishermen and they're, they're fishing out with their father's EEE. And here comes Jesus walking along the shore. And this unknown rabbi named Jesus comes to the edge of the shore. And he calls at, at them and he says, James, John, come follow me and I'll make you fishers of men. So immediate immediately they lead their nets, which I'm sure went over real well with Zeb and they walk off and they follow this rabbi into the greatest adventure of their lives. And they watches Jesus steps into his authority and his ministry and begins to perform miracles.

14:40 They're there. When he feeds 5,000 with a few loaves and fish, they're there. When he opens blind eyes, they're there. When he raises a little girl back to life who had died, they're there with him when he is at Lazarus's tomb and he calls out Lazarus come forth. They're there. They see it all. They sit with him at the last supper. When Jesus says I'm gonna go away and you're not gonna understand it, but don't let your hearts be troubled. Cause I'm gonna be with you always. They hear all these words. They're there at the crucifixion as Jesus is, is killed and, and put up on the cross and he dies. Jesus would turn on the way up to Calvary up to the cross. They, Jesus would turn to John. Who's standing there with his mother, Mary and Jesus would look at his mom and he would say, Mary, this is your son and John, this is your mother.

15:25 He's saying, take care of my mom. This is how close the relationship is between Jesus and John and John's gospel. In fact, John would refer to himself in the third person as a disciple that Jesus loved. That's a little arrogant . And yet John was so confident in the love that this man, his friend Jesus had for him, that he would refer to himself as the disciple that Jesus loved their, their bond and their love for each other was, was something that was unbreakable. And then Jesus leaves. He goes, he sends into heaven. We find out in the book of acts chapter one and he's gone. And then the early church begins. And one by one, all of John's friends are killed by the empire. Peter is killed by the empire. James is taken away and killed by the Romans. Even Paul who comes late to the party is killed.

16:19 And if anyone had the ability to be jaded and disappointed and disillusioned with the claims of Jesus from so long ago, it's John and I read this, this intro to the, the book of John years ago, from the author of max Lucado and someone after the last service came up and said, max, Lucado you were on way back. And I said, yeah, I, I found it, you know, on a coffee table book that my grandma had probably cuz that's I most of, you know, max Lucado's stuff is, is from way back then, but he is so good. I wanted to read it again years after he's written this, about John as an old man, 60 years after Jesus had walked with him, max Lucado says this. He says, he's an old man. This one who sits on the stool and leans against the wall, eyes closed and face soft where not for his hands stroking his beard.

17:09 You'd think he was asleep some in the room assume he is. He does this often during worship, as the people, seeing his eyes will close and his chin will fall until it rests on his chest. And there will be there. He will remain motionless and silent. Those who know him well know better. They know he is not resting. He is traveling atop the music. He journeys back, back, back until he is young. Again strong again, there again, they're on the seashore with James and the apostles. They're on the trail with the disciples and the women they're in the temple with CAIF and the accusers it's been 60 years, but John sees him still, the decades took John's strength, but they didn't take his memory. The years dulled his sight, but they didn't dull his vision. The seasons may have wrinkled his face, but they didn't soften his love. He had been with God, God had been with him. How could he forget if only you could have been there? He thinks, but most of the people here weren't even born then, and most who were with Jesus are dead. Peter is gone. So is James Nathaniel, Martha BA Martha, you they're all gone. And even Paul, the apostle who came late is dead. Only. John remains.

18:23 Now for John, this could be a pretty bleak moment. This could be dark days for a man who had seen so much happen in his life. And whose whose memory maybe of Jesus. It was so long ago. He might question some of the aspects of what he remembered about his friend. Jesus, surely, if anyone had the right to just like check out of this whole believing in Jesus, then it would be John. He's seen what, when you run a foul of the empire in pursuit of this, Jesus, he's seen it happen again and again with his friends, if anyone probably had a free pass just to piece out and just be an old man and leave everything else to other different people. It's John in this moment. And yet it's in this moment. After 60 years that John picks up a pin and he begins to write the gospel of John in the beginning was the word. And the word was with God. And the word was God. And then he gets to verse five.

19:24 He says the light shines in the darkness and the darkness is not overcome it. I think for John, he's not just writing about that moment in the, in the beginning when the power of God is there and Jesus is there and light comes into darkness. He's writing about himself right now as an old man, when things have gotten dark and his friends have, have gone away and, and the world has changed and things have gotten so dark in the empire and, and the Romans are the throats of the Jews and the, the Temple's about to even be destroyed. And he's looking at all that's happening in the world. And he sees a lot of darkness study. He remembers his friend Jesus from decades ago and he writes this with such faith and confidence as if he's still that young man on the seashore. He says the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

20:09 And I wonder for us, when we look out and things seem bleak and things seem dark and we've had some disappointments and maybe faith hasn't shaped out the way we thought it would years ago when we came into faith or came to know Jesus. And, and sometimes we question and we wrestle and we doubt. I wonder if like John, we could have a faith that is revived and comes alive again, to look at the darkness of the world and say, yeah, this dark out there, but the darkness will not overcome the light of the world. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

20:42 And so John has this, this fire of faith, that cannot be extinguished through the years. It cannot be extinguished through the disappointments. Why? Because he saw Jesus face to face. And I think what I want for me, I want this for you, is that we would not, we would not just talk about Jesus, learn about Jesus, professed the way of Jesus, but that we would see him. I think that changed everything for John. Not that he just heard about what Jesus did. It was that he walked with him and he heard his voice and he saw him do those things.

21:25 And that was a light that couldn't be extinguished. I hope we can see Jesus. I hope we can spend time with him. I hope it's more than words and more than thoughts and more than ideologies and more than political positioning. I hope we can be with Jesus and see him as the light of the world. So John writes his gospel. It's beautiful. It's unique talks about how Jesus is the light of the world and the, the way and the truth and the life. And he's, he's so much to John. And then you think, okay, now John gets a free pass to just chill, live out his golden years, pleasantly. And then the Romans come in, they arrest him and they exile him to Patmos. it's like, come on. After all this he's an old man, just leave the guy alone. The empire comes in and they exile 'em to PMO this little Greek aisle in the middle of the Mediterranean. And before you say, oh, that sounds nice. This is like a wifi free PMO. So just think about that. That's tough.

22:30 He's in prison on this island. And now we would say, okay, well you, you got through the disappointments of, of losing all those friends and seeing things not pan out. Great. And seeing all this aggression towards the church, you got through that, but now you're in exile. Surely. Now the disappointment will settle in. Surely. Now you'll realize that this is how life's gonna end in one big disappointment in a cave on this island. And so John sits in his cave and he has a vision and he picks up the pen again and he begins to write the book of revelation. And it's in this revelation of, of this apocalyptic vision. And if you've ever read it, you'll know why I'm not actually gonna get into it in the two minutes we have left, but it gets to the end of, of the final pages of the book of revelation, which if you notice in your Bible right now, that means it's the final pages of our Bible. It's at the very end, he gets to the very end of, of his writing.

23:36 And it's probably not missed on John. That it's also the very end of his life. This is where it all wraps up. And in revelation 21, the, the very final pages of this story. John writes this, he says, look, look, God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women. They're his people. He's there. God, he's gonna wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good tears, gone, crying, gone pain has gone all the first order of things gone. And he who was seated on the throne said, look, I am making everything new.

24:16 This is maybe the most subversive element of our Christian faith is that following Jesus will take us to the end of all. Things will lose some things and we'll, we'll face some disappointments and, and things won't pan out. And, and, and, and it won't always work out how we thought the promises should. We'll come to the end of all, things where there's just not much runway left. And then we'll hear a voice from the throne saying, look, I'm making everything new. And I'm reading this this week. And I'm thinking about all you guys and, and the endings that we all face and the troubles we face and the, the relationships that fall apart and the marriages that end and the sicknesses that come. And I, standing here this week, as we, we said goodbye to a good friend, Gary, who got a, a cancer diagnosis. And, just a couple months later was, was gone. And I thought about Gary, cuz right after he heard the news, we were sitting with him, praying together with him and Mary Lynn.

25:24 And it, you know, it should be a really somber time. I mean, this is bad news. And Gary said, you know, I just, it, it, it seems a little weird, but I'm just so full of hope and so full of joy. And then to prove it, he stood up, he said, this is what I've been doing at home. And he started dancing and talking about some song from the sixties that he's, he sings to. I don't even know it. And it was a picture of this hope that extends beyond the circumstances of the present age. And this is at the heart of John's ethic. This is at the heart of every exile who is in the pages of the Bible who held their faith in God, who, who walked through the Roman empire in the face of great aggression and opposition, and still had faith in the love of Christ that could not be separated from them.

26:10 It's the ethic of all of us who truly wanna follow the way of Jesus when the, the world gets dark it's to stand up and say, I don't know why, but I'm dancing in the dark because the light of the world has shown. And when we think we're at the end, he continues again and again, to say I'm making everything new. And so my invitation to you today for all of us is to have faith that at the end of all, things, the voice of Jesus declares, newness, and you know what that takes, that takes faith. Don't think this is easy when you're looking at a door closing and you want to keep your, your, your hand in that door, cuz you don't know if another one's gonna open my goodness. It takes faith to allow a door to close, not knowing what's next, but here's a quote I read from Philippines. He said, I've learned that faith means trusting in advance. What will only make sense in reverse? So here's the invitation step up in faith. Let some doors close and watch as a voice from the throne says again and again, I'm making all things new.

27:21 It's not over. You thought this cave was gonna be the end. You thought this darkness was gonna win for the light shines in the darkness and there's newness for you. And there's newness for your relationships. There's newness for your future. That's the hope we have in Christ. And so Jesus, today we ask for that, that voice that John heard at the end of his life to ring in our ears. I pray for those who are mourning the loss of some things today, who are just wondering if the future could possibly be good because of maybe what Doris closed or what they've lost. Jesus that today, your voice would ring loud and clear. I'm making all things new.