All Things New

In one of the most stirring images of the New Testament, an inspired St. John sees the new Jerusalem, the saints of God, coming down from heaven. John hears God announce from His throne that He will “tent” with His people and that tears, death, mourning, and pain will be no more. Then with all the excitement of an artist seeing His new creation, a new heaven and a new earth, God shouts from the throne, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:1-5).

God’s creative bent is well-documented. He has always been enamored with the new. Back with Isaiah, God had said, ““Remember not the former things nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it” (Is 43:18-19)?  With every new Christian and every Baptism, there is the assurance, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). A new plan of salvation, people dead in their sins made new in Christ! Where would we be without this God who makes all things new?

It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that the earth God gave us at creation has a built-in system of renewal. We see it now, the greening of winter’s desolation. Naked trees are clothed with new foliage, plants push their way up and out of the dark earth, crocus, hyacinth, and daffodils. This God who loves making all things new repaints the landscape of our lives again and again with every new spring.

Our tradition within Christianity is to a large extent one of preservation. As a confessional church body, weare committed to conserving baseline truths like the verbal inspiration and authority of the Bible, or justification by grace through faith in Christ, or the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. We hold tight, without compromise, to what God has revealed in the Scriptures and has been passed down to us for generations.

We are in this sense keepers of the old. Many of us love the old liturgies and the old hymns. We are suspicious of any cultural creep, which introduces the secular into the sacred as a valuable new practice. A cartoon posted in the district office has a Call Committee gathered around a meeting table with one of them saying, “Basically, we are looking for an innovative pastor with a fresh vision who will inspire our church to be exactly the same.”

So it must be said, especially to the preservationist Christian and the preservationist church, which pretty much takes in all of us: Every new idea is not wrong or bad because it is new. Any mention of revitalizing a church is not a put-down, but simply what happens when the Word of God has free course. It looks as if God is out to make all things new right up to and including the new heaven and the new earth. So why wouldn’t we, whom God renews every day in our Baptism, want to be a part of God’s new things? Why wouldn’t we be taken up with the artistry of God’s on-going new creation?

Let me encourage you this Eastertide to look for the good new thing. What if you began one new devotional practice to strengthen your faith and life? What if you memorized one new Scripture passage every week? What if your church leadership looked diligently for one new outreach ministry in your community? What if you made a fresh invitation to worship with that unchurched friend or coworker?  What if we talked more about the future of our church than repeatedly recalling its glory days? What if we started a new home Bible study? What if we brought a new attitude to our valued relationships?

There can be an ongoing spring for God’s people as we hold fast to the truths we cherish and at the same time open ourselves to the new things God wants to do among us. Life with God is living each day on the edge of God’s new things. We can refuse to see it, we can run from it, or we can embrace it.