Friday, April 15, 2011

Between Two Worlds

I’ve learned the hard way over the years that photographers can do amazing things in an advertisement to make a mediocre vacation place look exotic. The phrase, “Not as Advertised!” rings through as you try to adjust your expectations downward to make the best of a disappointing vacation situation. Bugs, smells, loud noises, broken furnishings, and trashy surroundings never seem to be depicted in brochure pictures.

But my last vacation, I have to say, was “As Advertised!” As we walked into our rented condo on the Gulf of Mexico, we all said in harmony, “Ahhhh… this is what we need!” Though the brightly decorated and well furnished condo was welcoming and warm, it was what we found in the back of the condo that was most inviting. A huge slider door opened to a sixth floor balcony overlooking the Gulf and its white sand beaches. The brilliant sunshine, the warm salty breeze, and the persistent sound of lapping waves brought a sense of peace and tranquility to our spirits. We knew this would be a place for rest and distraction from our busy and full lives.

But throughout the week, I noticed a stark contrast in our surroundings. While the backside of our condo spoke of ease, rest, and quiet, the front did not. If we needed to go somewhere for dinner, grocery shopping, or even to walk to the beach, we had to use the front door. There, the view was dynamically different. Instead of sand and water, there was the asphalt of parking lots and a five lane road. Instead of birds and boats, there were cars, water towers, a Rite Aid, and a boarded up gas station. Instead of the sounds of waves and kids playing in the sand, there were sounds of traffic and sirens in the distance. Instead of feeling a cool breeze cutting through the warm sun’s rays, there was a humid stench from the exhaust-filled pavement. Even the doors spoke to this contrast. The back door, a huge glass slider, invited a view toward beauty. The front door, made of steel with multiple locks and no windows, spoke to security and isolation. As I stood in the middle of this vacation condo, it felt like I was on the threshold between two distinct worlds.

When Jesus approached the cross, he felt the sharp contrast between two distinct worlds. As he was betrayed, denied, spit on, mocked, unjustly convicted, and then left to die in the most painful way of execution, he was experiencing the full impact of a broken and diseased world. But, what led him to stay on the path to the cross? My goodness, he was God! He didn’t have to endure this. He could have walked away from this ugly mire of humanity and left us in our stench. But, Jesus had a clear vision of a perfect world of rest, peace, rightness, beauty, and goodness. That vision kept him on the threshold, the cross, between two distinct worlds.

When I think of contrasting worlds, this passage moves me deeply. Decades after Jesus’ death, John, one of his disciples, had this vision. This was the “view off the balcony” that Jesus had from the cross.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. Revelation 21.1-5 NLT

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