Vol 4 No.1 Mission and New Creation

In Isaiah 43:18-19 we hear God speaking: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” The start of a new year is always a time for thinking about new beginnings, but usually such new beginnings focus on changing things from our past – our need to lose weight, to exercise more, to read more, to spend time with friends more, and so on. A missional perspective, however, calls us to a radical kind of new beginning – much more than a new beginning that takes place at the stroke of midnight from one year to the next.

God’s mission in the world and our participating with God in mission is more than a new beginning, it embraces new creation. Participating in mission is more than a mere fresh start, it is the creation of something entirely new – “a new thing!” The “new thing” of God is something we likely do not have the words to describe or express – just as John in Revelation struggled to find the right words to express the new thing he was seeing as God shared a new vision with him – a vision of what God was bringing about. The new things of God are often indescribable and we need a new set of eyes and a new set of ears to perceive it.

The coming of God, taking on our humanity, was a new thing that those who should have had ears to hear and eyes to see were unable to grasp, even after John the Baptist, as a voice of one crying in the wilderness proclaimed, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him” (Mark 1:3). Jesus came and shared the Gospel of God’s Reign, the Gospel of God’s New Thing – but the religious leaders were too vested in their old ways that they rebuked God’s new thing being made visible in and through Jesus Christ.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was also a new thing of God – in which the Spirit of God was being poured out upon all humanity, not only God’s chosen people.

Yet, to grasp the new thing of God requires a re-creation on our part. We are unable to fit the new thing of God into our lives because our lives are incapable of embracing the new thing of God. Rather, for us to be embraced by the new thing of God, our lives must be transformed, made new, re-created so that the new thing of God can find a place to root within our lives. This transformation of our lives is not about our turning over a new leaf at the beginning of a new year, nor buying the right self-help books to steer our lives in a new direction, it requires a change in us that we are incapable of bringing about.

To embrace the new thing of God, God needs to do a new thing in us, so that we might become new. And as God acts in us to create a new thing in our old lives, we are re-created as vessels in whom God’s new thing begins to indwell.

Participating in God’s mission requires such a transformation in us as well. We are incapable of taking on God’s mission in our lives, as if it were another task we are meaning to do, something we add to the list of things we need to do in our lives. To participate with God in God’s mission requires an immersion in God’s Spirit, a baptism into the new creation of God – a new birth, if you will, into a way of being that is completely the acting of God in us. To participate with God in God’s redemptive mission is to get ourselves out of the way in order for the Spirit of God to take us on a journey in which we demonstrate the present reality of the new thing that God is doing in the world in people, in communities, all around us. Such mission is never our initiative – it is always God’s. And so, to participate with God in God’s missional initiative in which all creation is made new, in which humanity is restored in relationship with God and with one another, God has to initiate in us what only God can initiate in us – new creation.

And so as we enter into the new year, reflecting on the new thing that God is always about doing, let us realize that more is necessary than a flip of a calendar page, or a fresh allotment of will power – indeed, what is necessary is our being open to whatever God chooses to do in us, so that God might lead us to participate in whatever God is up to in the world in making all things new! May we be open to God doing a new thing in each of our lives as we seek to be a missional people.

  1. Eric Lerew says:

    Roland,

    Thanks for the rethink on the new year. I’m feeling what you wrote about but could not put it in words.

    Eric

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iMissional.org | Roland Kuhl