Posted by: Philip Rushton | June 9, 2014

The Journey Toward New Creation: Vision

There is often a gap between what we desire for our world and what the world is really like. As Christians we long for new creation. Revelation paints a picture for us of a God who is seeking to make all things new. It is a place of that will be free of grief, violence, division and poverty. It will be a place full of healing, reconciliation, provision, and shalom. In the meantime, however, we are caught in a world full of problems.

In the midst of this reality it is hard for us to know how we can get from where we are to where we want to be. We often struggle to know how we can partner with God as he seeks to weave his new creation into the fabric of our world.

A Sculpture Titled "Reconciliation" at Duke Divinity School.

A Sculpture Titled “Reconciliation” at Duke Divinity School.

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in Duke Divinity School’s, “Summer Institute Of Theology and Reconciliation.” Throughout the week we explored how we might make this journey toward God’s vision of new creation in a divided and broken world. Each day we focused on a different part of the journey that is essential for us to attend to if we hope to experience the new things God seeks to do in our lives and in our world. The four themes we focused on were vision, lament, hope and spirituality.

To help me process this week, and to invite you to join me on this journey, I’ve decided to do a four part series on the blog that covers the themes we explored at the institute. Today I begin with a reflection on the importance of vision.

1. Vision

Without a vision of where we are going we are quickly taken off course – especially when we face set-backs and frustrations. During the first day at the Summer Institute we focused on recovering a vision of where we are going. We were encouraged to recover the dreams that God desires to bring about in our world by regaining a biblical imagination.

Richard Hays suggested that the church has often had a limited or impoverished vision of what God is seeking to do. We have reduced the gospel to a personal salvation story. We have talked about how God has saved us from our sin, but we have left off the second part of the story. Our reconciliation to God is simply the starting point of our calling to participate in his new creation. We aren’t just saved from something, we are saved to something. We are invited to be part of his renewing work in our world.

Part of the day focused on confronting the things that prevent us from pursuing God’s vision of new creation. Laura Truax preached during our morning session about how we often don’t want the new. We resist the new because we are afraid to let go of what we are comfortable with, or because change is difficult. God’s new creation confronts the ways of our world, and many of us are very at home in our world.

However, Laura said, “the new wine is going to destroy the old wine skins one way or another.” She encouraged us to take the risk of recapturing God’s dreams for our world. We can take this risk because God is at the center of it all. He has something so much better in store for us, and he has the resources and the power to make them a reality.

During lunch on the first day I had a great conversation with a man who had left the Catholic priesthood in his mid thirties. He spoke about how this move was necessary for him to make because he felt overly constricted by the forms of the church and because he had fallen in love with a woman. It was a risky move, however, because it cost him his vocation, his income, and even the support of his family. Yet, he spoke a word of encouragement to me. He explained how God was faithful in providing him new life-giving venues for ministry. He also spoke of how God provided for him financially in unexpected way. His story spoke to the courage we need if we hope to leave the old behind and pursue what God has planned for us. He encouraged me not to let economics or practicalities squelch the dreams God has placed in my heart.

At the closing worship session we were asked to write on a card where we see glimpses of new creation and where we long to see it. We then tied these cards onto a tree at the front of the chapel, which was representative of the Tree of Life in Revelation 22. This passage says that the leaves of the tree, “are for the healing of the nations.”

I was encouraged as I reflected on where I see God weaving new creation into our world through the ministry of our local church. My “leaf” was full of names and stories representing where I see God at work.

At the same time I was challenged to dream about where I long to see new creation take root. I realized that my dreams are often truncated by fear or doubt. I was encouraged to not let my leadership be determined by the limitations of world but by the promises of scripture.

I would encourage you to reflect on these questions as well. Where do you see glimpses of God’s new creation in our world? And where do you long to see new creation take root? What types of things are preventing you from pursuing these dreams?

My next reflection will be on the theme of lament. Once we have regained a vision for where God wants to lead us, we need to come to terms with the reality of where we are.

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