New Creation was God’s objective from the moment Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. But it wasn’t until Jesus’ ascension to God’s right hand that, like the first flowers of spring, it began to take hold in our beautiful, broken – and now – rescued world.
As you recall, God’s beautiful design for creation was broken by human rebellion. The tragic picture in Genesis of humanity hiding from God, desperately covering their shame, blaming God and one another, and alienated from the very earth they had been created to care for — well, it’s a pathetic scene as contemporary as it is ancient.
God’s rescue project for his beloved world and its inhabitants began in earnest when God called Abraham, and promised to make him the father of a family (Israel) who would bless the entire world. For 2,000 years, God shepherded his people into Egypt and out of it, into the Promised Land, out of it, and back again – until, at last, a baby was born to an obscure Jewish girl named Mary.
As the story of Jesus unfolds in the Gospels, we are astounded to discover that it was God’s plan all along to bear in body the weight of human rebellion. He would conquer the power of evil by submitting to its horrific consequences. His death would defuse its power, and his resurrection would birth new life – putting God’s original creational objective back on track.
Just when it looked like the story was ending, however, there was another unexpected twist. As Acts opens, we learn that, while New Creation was inaugurated with Jesus’ resurrection, it will not be consummated until Jesus’ return. In the meantime, Jesus will empower his followers with the Holy Spirit in order to become living witnesses, by word and deed, of God’s new creation. To be, in a word, a New Creation Community. All families of the earth (the original promise to Abraham) would be blessed by the rapid expansion of this new community of people. They would cross every ethnic, geographic and economic boundary, and create a whole new way of being human.
It is this story which the rest of the New Testament is telling, and it is the book of Acts which describes the birth and growth of this new creation community. Against insurmountable odds, Acts tells us how it spread all the way to Rome within the next thirty years.
It is a fascinating adventure and, best of all, it is a story which is still being written. The torch has passed from generation to generation, reaching all the way to a dusty saloon on the foothills of Black Mountain.
For make no mistake about it. We are God’s new creation community: Called to faith in the gospel of Jesus; Gathered in love as the community of Jesus; and Sent with hope on the mission of Jesus. God grant that we will be faithful as in our day as they were in theirs. For the story of Acts does not end with chapter 28. It continues well beyond that — at least into Acts 2017.