We believe that, in the fullness of time, God will renew and gather in one all things in heaven and on earth through Christ, and be perfectly honoured and adored.
Revelation 21: 1-4:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’
‘In the fulness of time’. This is the kind of thing a parent says to an impatient child, or that we say to one another when we know we can’t deliver whatever it is just yet. ‘In the fulness of time’. It comes with a sense that waiting has to be done, that the good things we long for can’t come all at once, or that the timescale is in someone else’s hands.
Right now the timescale for the renewal of earth and atmosphere is pressing hard at our heels. If we don’t cut carbon emissions enough by….. then we are doomed and the damage caused by climate change is irreversible. Perhaps it already is in some ways. In this sense we don’t want time to be ‘full’, we want there still to be time for life to change and earth to be healed.
Perhaps the truth is that we can only trust that the renewal of earth is in God’s hands and that, though we must do everything we can, and use every moment we have, to change our lives and cut emissions and mitigate the impact of the climate change on the poorest of the world, it is ultimately only God who can save us and redeem the world, only God who will make suffering and death pass away and bring a new heaven and a new earth.
There are some in this world who think we should just keep burning carbon and see what happens, since God will see the righteous right. There are others who think that human effort, if we all screw up our courage, could yet be enough. But perhaps this astonishing piece of scripture is right (and our statement of faith too), that God is with us, that this is God’s home as well as our home, and that together we will do this. In the fulness of time. And may that fulness come soon.
O God, we pray for renewal and unity: for people everywhere to come together in peace and in common purpose, so that earth and air, sea and sky, may be renewed and blessed. We will give this our time and our full commitment, and we trust that in the fulness of your time, all things, in heaven and on earth, may be made new and good and whole, and give you perfect honour and praise, Amen.
The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber is minister of Taunton URC and Moderator of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches