The Day of New Creation

Isaiah 65:17-25

17 Look! I’m creating a new heaven and a new earth: past events won’t be remembered; they won’t come to mind.
18 Be glad and rejoice forever in what I’m creating, because I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy and her people as a source of gladness.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad about my people. No one will ever hear the sound of weeping or crying in it again.
20 No more will babies live only a few days, or the old fail to live out their days. The one who dies at a hundred will be like a young person, and the one falling short of a hundred will seem cursed.
21 They will build houses and live in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They won’t build for others to live in, nor plant for others to eat. Like the days of a tree will be the days of my people; my chosen will make full use of their handiwork.
23 They won’t labor in vain, nor bear children to a world of horrors, because they will be people blessed by the LORD, they along with their descendants.
24 Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.
25 Wolf and lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but the snake–its food will be dust. They won’t hurt or destroy at any place on my holy mountain, says the LORD.  (CEB)

The Day of New Creation

The other day, Joy and I took our kids to see Zootopia. It was pretty good, but I thought the opening scene was an unnecessary info-dump. An info-dump—also known as overt narrative exposition—is usually considered a big No-No in the world of novel writing. In movies, they can get away with it a little more, but it’s still iffy.

What happens is, you have all this great world-building that you’ve done, you’ve created a history and lore, and background circumstances that have led up to the current story. The info-dump happens when you stop telling the story and start imparting all of that history. There’s no plot to it, it’s just spewing out information. When the info-dump comes at the beginning of a novel or movie, it means the real story that the author or screenwriter wants to tell hasn’t actually begun yet.

Now, if you haven’t seen Zootopia yet, I promise not to give away any spoilers. This little info-dump scene at the beginning showed Judy, the story’s protagonist as a kid in a play. She and her friend, a young fox, told about how long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Wait. Sorry, wrong movie. Anyway, a long time ago, predators ate prey. Then, they grew out of their ruthlessness and lived together in harmony. They even built the great city of Zootopia. Yay! After this little background info-dumping scene, the actual story begins. See? No spoilers. You have to have plot to have spoilers, and info-dumps contain no plot.

That opening scene really wasn’t necessary, but it does kind of loosely describe resurrection life in God’s peaceable kingdom. “Wolf and lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox…” (CEB). It’s a restoration to God’s original intentions for creation. You see, in Genesis 1:30, God gave all the animals—everything that breathes—the green grasses for food. In the beginning, there was no predator and prey. Sin messed everything up. Adam and Eve were the gardeners. When the caretakers of the garden fell into sin, the garden fell apart, too.

The thing we often forget about resurrection is that it is not only the promise of life after death. Resurrection includes God’s power to create a new reality for all of creation. Resurrection isn’t only about us. It is absolutely cosmic in scope. Resurrection has—and continues to—swallow the effects of sin. And sin is pretty bad stuff.

The reality of our world is that every morning, people wake up to fear and sorrow. The sound of weeping and cries of distress can be heard in every city across the world. Infants die every day. People’s lives are cut short through acts of evil, such as the bombings in Belgium, or through accidents and mishaps. People try to make ends meet to build a home and live life, but they end up homeless and hungry. People across the world plant crops only to have them destroyed or stolen by invaders and the violent. People in our own city work all day and come home to poverty and want because they don’t have enough.

Many mothers across the world bear children for calamity. If they refuse to fight as child soldiers, boys might have their arms cut off. Girls are kidnapped, sold into sexual slavery as brides. Babies starve, and children die of malnutrition. Women are gang-raped. Whole peoples are targeted for destruction based on their religion or culture.

And closer to home, children wander the streets of this very neighborhood. Children who are hungry. Children who come to this building every time the lights are on because they know they can get a meal, even if that meal occasionally comes with the annoyed stares of some of our congregation members.

Sin has messed our world up. Sin causes us to see division and distinctions between people whom God created as equals. Sin leads us to accept injustice, inequality, violence, exploitation, inhumanity and say, Well, that’s just the way things are. Sin is what allows us to prey upon others with hardly a second thought. Sin is what allows us to hide our faces from the very systems of injustice that keep poor people poor here and across the world. Sometimes we participate in these systems without even knowing it. But I think part of the problem is that sin keeps us from even caring to find out where our food and clothing come from.

We live a charmed life in this country. We come to worship on Easter Day dressed in our Sunday best. Today, people will watch parades, gather with family and friends, watch children hunt for plastic eggs filled with candy, celebrate with dancing and games in the streets of their cities.

Elsewhere in the world, children are born into bloodshed, people suffer from gut-wrenching calamity. Sin has shaped the world in the twisted image of the Evil One. The question I often ponder is, Do we care? Do we care enough to do something about it? Do we care enough to stand up and say, I see how sin is destroying human lives, and then roll up our sleeves or raise our voices—in whatever small way we can—to work at fixing the problem and making things right? Do we see with resurrection eyes?

Resurrection re-imagines the world in God’s image. The prophet Isaiah saw a vision of the world with resurrection eyes. Isaiah paints a bold picture for us that ought to challenge everything we see, say, and do. It ought to push hard against what we know and accept as Just the way it is. Because, Just the way it is, says there are those on top, and there are those on bottom, and I’m fine with that because I’m on top. Sin says we don’t owe anybody anything. Resurrection life says God’s will for creation reigns in my life now because in Christ we are new creations.

On Easter Day, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It wasn’t something the Disciples of Jesus expected. On that Sunday morning, the women went to the tomb of Jesus with spices so they could embalm his body properly. They went looking for a beaten, bruised, and blooded corpse. They expected to see the result of sin and worldly power devouring the weak and humble. They expected to see just the way things are. Once again, the powerful have turned justice into poison and thrown righteousness to the ground (Amos 5:7). Once again, an innocent has been sold for silver (Amos 2:6). Once again the wealthy have crushed the head of the poor into the dust of the Earth (Amos 2:7). The death of Jesus is just one more once again. One more just the way things are.

In the Gospel of John’s account, Mary Magdalene spoke to angels and to Jesus without recognizing any of it until Jesus spoke her name. It’s not easy to see past the way things are with resurrection eyes—not at first, anyway—because it’s not what we expect. This new vision can startle us as it startled Mary Magdalene. It can perplex us as it perplexed Peter and John.

They expected to see the way things are. Instead, they encountered an empty tomb and a risen Jesus. Instead, they found that God had tilted the cosmos on its head and shouted aloud that nothing will ever be the same. The resurrection of Jesus is the day of new creation. God will no longer stand for, just the way things are. From now on, God will transform everything into the way God intends them to be.

But like I said, seeing with resurrection eyes isn’t always easy. Flannery O’Connor’s short story, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, illustrates this. In it, The Misfit’s gang murders members of a family a few at a time by taking them back into the woods and shooting them. While this is happening, The Misfit and the Grandmother have this strange little talk about the resurrection.

The Misfit says, “Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead, and He shouldn’t have done it. He thrown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can-by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness.”

In the moment before her death, the grandmother finally sees with resurrection eyes: “‘Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!’ She reached out and touched him on the shoulder.”

Then The Misfit shoots and kills the old woman. And he notes, “She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

We Christians in America are a lot like the grandmother. Often times, we don’t take resurrection seriously until something forces us to acknowledge it. We typically go on about our lives seeing life as just the way things are. We don’t throw away anything to follow Jesus. We only add Jesus into another compartment of our lives.

But the beauty and power of Christ’s resurrection demands that we open our eyes to see what God has done, what God is doing, and what God will do. Isaiah declares God’s vision, and it’s beautiful. God is creating a new heaven, and a new earth where the way things are will no longer be remembered. Isaiah calls us to rejoice in God’s new creation. We can join our rejoicing to God’s as God finds gladness in us. No one will ever hear the sound of weeping or crying again. No more babies will die after a few days. No more will a person’s life be cut short. No more will houses be built and taken away from those who need shelter. No more will crops be planted and stolen. No more will we labor in vain. No more will women bear children to a world of horrors, because we and our descendants will be a people blessed by God.

In the resurrection, God has answered before we could call. Even as we spoke the words, God heard and acted. The peaceable kingdom has become our new just the way things are. The resurrection of Jesus Christ demands that we open our eyes and see with resurrection eyes. We cannot afford to ignore the fullness of what the resurrection means for us and for all people. This is the day of new creation. And we can live into this new reality now. We can be the community of faith God calls us to be.

God is the one who is and who was and who is to come. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The day will come again, as it was in the past, when the wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The resurrection of Jesus challenges us to see beyond the status quo to the way things ought to be. Do we see, on this day of new creation, with the eyes of resurrection? Are we willing to let God’s kingdom come in us?

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

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