Today, downtown Charlotte is my wandering-ground. I have flown for the first time in twenty-one months and I’m having the strange feeling of re-inhabiting neglected activities, like finding a favorite old sweater in the back of the closet. Here I am, doing what I love most about travel: exploring a new place, with eyes and ears and mind open to the Lord.
I have a phrase that frames my vision on this perfect autumnal day. A new creation. It’s a theme that fits my return to long-distance travel. Two verses feed into this framework:
“I am making all things new.” Rev 21:5
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17
The construction around me (typical of many downtowns) is an obvious visual. But I’m after something more subtle in this concept of newness.
In a park, I discover these strange, composite bird boxes. In my search for a big visual, I have nearly overlooked them. They are sculpted out of rough cement, with an amalgam of porcelain objects pressed into it. These posts are striking and utterly original.
Yesterday, I read a good portion of the book Art + Faith: A Theology of Making, by Makoto Fujimura. He is one of the premier painters in the world today, and an outspoken Christian. (As well as a graduate of the university in my town.) At one point in the book, he delves into 2 Cor. 5:17, pointing out the significance of kainos, the word used for new.
We shouldn’t think new as in an update or an improvement, he instructs. Instead, he interprets it to be a “New Newness – akin to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, but more.” He goes on:
“… (kainos) is not just a new species, but a new concept of what a species is.”
Jesus, through his indwelling, resurrection power, doesn’t simply make us into a better version of ourselves. He makes us into something utterly original.
When I first came to faith, this was powerfully tangible. But in the decades that have followed, it has been harder to discern this New Newness in me. I don’t feel like a “new concept of what a species is.” Some days I don’t even feel like a better version of myself!
That’s why Jesus’s statement in Rev. 21:5 is such an encouragement. His power is the catalyst of this change. And it is his presence inside believers that makes them a new type of human being.
As I head back to my hotel at the end of my walk, I notice the sun reflected in the windows of one of the massive buildings. It is as if the empty structure is filled with a new energy – awakened, inhabited, transformed.
It’s a visual underlining of today’s lesson. Through Jesus, we are that striking and utterly original.
How easily we forget what you have done in our lives, Lord. Forgive us for reducing you to an improvement program we’ve signed up for. You are the Creator and Re-creator. Help us to recognize our newness in you.
Reader: Tell me about something radically new you’ve experienced recently.