I have been accused in the past of being something of a luddite. For those who do not know the term, “luddite” is used to describe people who dislike new technology. It comes from a nineteenth-century labor movement where skilled craftsmen fought against new mechanized manufacturing practices which undermined their work. While I may lean that way a bit, I am not a luddite. I am just not one to jump on board with the new simply because it is new. As people say these days, “I’m not an early adopter.” But I do come along eventually. And I appreciate many of the innovative technologies that make our lives more convenient and streamlined. Now, maybe you are an early adopter. The type, for example, who will stand in line to get the latest new gadget offered by Apple. But the truth is, no matter how quickly we adapt to the new there always remains a certain romance about the new, a certain hopefulness the new will fix all which the old could never address. The new comes with a great amount of unspoken promise.
The technological advancements we have witnessed throughout our life are staggering. When I went off to college the internet was a brand-new thing. I did not even have a computer or a cell phone and did not get one for quite some time. My children are what they call “digital natives.” They do not know a world without the ability to text message friends and look up anything by searching Google or asking Alexa. When we look at them, we cannot help but think the world has changed, and changed dramatically. And with each new thing there is the hope that the new just might be able to make the world a better place, more equitable, more peaceful, more charitable, more balanced. We dream the new will solve many of life’s critical issues.
But the truth is, it does not. Does it? Our new things change things, but they do not correct the real problems. The real evils of our age remain. In fact, in many ways it just makes them worse. If gossip and slander were a problem in the age of newspapers, it is not made better by Twitter. As the preacher in Ecclesiastes famously said, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” There is nothing new under the sun. Whatever the new thing is mankind invents, it is used, managed, and even designed by flawed and fallen human beings. You do not need to look any further than air travel. Think of the wonderful miracle it is for us to board a giant metal tube in LAX and within six hours arrive in Florida to see family. Flying is incredible, but have you flown lately? We have managed to take this amazing thing and make it a miserable experience. Long security lines, crammed into little seats with no leg room, packed from front to back, tossed a few snacks to keep you from complaining too much, and you cannot wait for it all just to be over. If you have ever wondered about the reality of original sin, there it is. We can even turn the wonders of air travel into a terrible ordeal we simple endure rather than enjoy.
Our new things, our new technologies, our new discoveries have yet to address the universal problems of humanity. And I doubt they ever will. The new does well on the peripherals but not the core issues. Mankind has tried to close the distance between God and man, tried to build our little towers of Babble, but they always come tumbling down. We can genetically modify our vegetables, convert saltwater into drinking water, harness the power of nuclear energy, transplant organs from one person to another, but we cannot force God to speak, we cannot make Him answer our prayers. We can attempt to play God with the things of creation, but we cannot sit in the presence of the One who created all things out of nothing.
Of course, the new does not end our suffering. It does not end our pain and anguish. With all the wonderful advancements of our age we still struggle in our relationships. We still know the realities of heartache. You have sat and watched ones you love fall ill and die. You have been there when the new failed, when there are no more options, no more innovative technologies to provide an answer. And with all the promise of our hyperconnected age, with the devices in our pockets which bring a constant stream of interaction, you still know the tears of loneliness. You know of the betrayal of others just as you know of your own failures. You know your failure to love and to forgive. After all, the new has not made you more righteous or more faithful, has it? The new has not positioned you to overcome your sin.
Obviously, we know all of this. We know the new of our age will not solve the problem of sin. It will not overcome the distance between man and God. It will not stop death and heartache. It will not bring an end to the tears we all experience. But what I think happens is we take the new thing with all the promises that come with it, and we set up camp in the midst of this reality. In the middle of the silence of God and the reality of suffering and the entanglement of sin we use the promise of the new as a way to manage it, to give direction and hope to our lives. So, if we struggle in our age, if we feel lonely and depressed, there is probably an app for that, a way to better manage your life, to give direction to it. The new is the solution to an aimless life. It is the promise of something more. Perhaps there is a better way to be church, to be faithful, fulfilled, and content. So, we are encouraged to go after the new, no matter how many iterations of the new there are, for at least it is moving somewhere.
But our Lord promises us something much more than all this, something greater than a management of the old age. Our Lord does not just set up camp in the midst of the brokenness of our age to give pointers on better living. No, He promises something true and actually new. He promises something which addresses the central issues. It gets right to the heart of the matter and does not just play in the peripheries. The Revelation given to Saint John is a powerful picture of true comfort and hope. It is the image of a new Heaven and new Earth. As such, it is a revelation of fulfillment of the all the promises of God. The old is not just reformed or tweaked to make it better. No, the old is done away with and the new is introduced. As he beholds this scene, John hears the living Word of God declare, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man… He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
This is actually new. The separation between God and man is undone. Death itself is undone. Mourning, crying, pain, they are all brought to a glorious end when the new comes. This is the image of resurrection of the glorious reunion we all cherish. It is healing and strength. Even as we look forward to this promise, to this moment of the fulfillment, the realities of it reverberate back into our lives here and now. For this is the heart of your faith. It is the promise which holds you in your dark times and comforts you in your confusion. And it is given to you freely. It is given to you not because you have earned it, not because you have been good enough or faithful enough. For the One who does this new thing says to you, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” Living water without payment. Eternal life given freely out of His love, His compassion, His mercy.
There is a scene in the movie The Passion I have always loved. As our Lord is depicted carrying His cross, His mother rushes up to Him as He falls beneath the weight of it. And He looks at her and says these words from Revelation. He says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” His sacrifice brings something actually new, eternally new. And this promise is for you today. For you He died. For you He rose. For you He makes all things new.