Seems like after all the buildup and hype before Easter, we soon forget about it and move on. We’ve eaten all the chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks. (I think we still have some malted eggs in the pantry.) We’ve returned to the habits we gave up for Lent. Do we not get what Easter is all about? It should be the most exciting holiday of the church year!
N.T. Wright said this about Easter in Surprised by Hope.
“. . . if Lent was a time to give things up. Easter ought to be a time to take things up . . . if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new ventures you never dreamed of. It might bring something of Easter into your innermost life. It might help you wake up in a whole new way. And that’s what Easter is all about.”
In John’s Revelation 21:1-6, we read about a great vision he was allowed to see of the new creation. It was so amazing that he has to use symbols and images beyond our understanding to describe what he witnessed.
Diana and I recently saw the Avengers: End Game movie. This is classic good vs evil on a cosmic level. As epic as some of these scenes are, they don’t compare with the images I have in my head with I read Revelation. Imagine if it were put on the big screen!
John’s vision is quite a scene. At a cosmic level, after good defeated evil, the current universe of God’s creation is passing away and the new heaven and new earth are coming together as one. There is so much we don’t know about the imagery of this text, but there is one thing we do understand. God makes this new creation and intends for it to be one.
All we have to do is look around in our current world and see that this vision hasn’t fully happened yet, right? We still see death. There is still mourning, crying, and pain.
This vision says that in this promised future, God will pitch his tent with humankind – all peoples – and live with us! What does this have to do with Easter? Easter makes all this possible. The entire history of the universe is about creating and sustaining a place for relationship with creator God. Jesus’ resurrection makes this relationship possible. We can experience it now.
The good news of the Kingdom of God is that God comes and dwells among us. God became human in Jesus and walked among us. Jesus sent his Spirit to live in us today. And someday, God will fully live in and with us as heaven and earth become one.
John’s vision doesn’t lead us to believe that our relationship with God is all about us going to heaven and living forever with God someday. It is all about God coming to be with humanity as He brings the new creation of heaven and earth together.
So what do we do until then? Sell our belongings and wait on a mountain summit for it all to happen? No! We are to prepare now by living through Christ in this present world. We will be a resurrected people in that new creation that Revelation shows us, but we don’t have to wait until our death to see heaven come to earth. Let’s start living out (or at least practicing) that future resurrected life here and now.
Have you ever said, “I don’t understand how this all could be. How can we puny little humans on this blue planet mean anything to the Creator God?” Did it ever occur to you that God planned for humans to be the only species on earth to be able to have a relationship with the eternal God? Other creatures may know God through their instincts and innate patterns, but we know God from our choice to open our hearts to his love and grace.
We can’t understand it all. All we can say is that by faith we believe God will bring it to pass. By faith and through his presence in our lives we can start putting it in to practice.
Another word from N. T. Wright in Surprised By Hope:
“I hope I have said enough to make it clear that the mission of the church is nothing more or less than the outworking, in the power of the Spirit, of Jesus’s bodily resurrection and thus the anticipation of the time when God will fill the earth with his glory, transform the old heavens and earth into the new, and raise his children from the dead to populate and rule over the redeemed world he has made.”
As we consider the hate, the oppression, the suffering, the violence and the chaos of our present world it is easy to get overwhelmed with what to do. Where to start? It’s true that there is much we can’t do anything about except pray for God’s intervention.
But there is one part of the universe, one part of physical reality, that we can do something about. Draw an imaginary circle on the floor and stand inside. Ask God to enable every person within this imaginary circle to respond to His grace and begin to serve and love. When we respond to God’s call and allow the Holy Spirit to live in and through us, our lives will show that we are no longer dead in our sins and in the decay of this world, but we have been made alive in Christ. We then show Easter is real.
One distinctive of the Church of the Nazarene is the belief that we are not saved just to go to heaven someday. We are saved to begin a process of becoming more and more like Christ in this present life. The old timers used to call it “Holiness of heart and life.” This is the work of God on the inside that leads to the work of God on the outside. You might say it is holiness Inside-Out.
May we share the hope of New Creation as we join the effort to bring heaven to earth. God chose us, may we choose to live for Him.