God's New Creation
As God created heavens and earth very good in the beginning (Genesis 1:31), so God is renewing the heavens and earth for the people to rejoice. God will not destroy the earth to make another universe. God is making new heavens and new earth in accord with God's purpose of the first creation that people will rejoice as they inhabit the earth and will be glad as they experience fellowship with God (see Isaiah 45:18). In Isaiah 65:18-19 (NRSV) the word "rejoice" and "delight" are repeated two times, parallel with the word "joy." This indicates that where God rejoices people will also rejoice, people will live in peace and delight.
The creation is described with a simple contentment and not in a "spectacular" condition. It provides the opportunity to enjoy the work of our and others' hands. Wounds from the past will be healed, and there are no more tears but only gladness because there is no more reason to cry. Instead of living under foreign domination, people will live peacefully to enjoy the fruits of their labors, fellowship with God and harmony between humankind and their environment and with the whole creation.
We have seen this long-expected creation in the life of Jesus Christ. We create the new heaven and new earth in a life that is continuously experiencing the renewal by Christ, a life that will bless others. We are not just sitting idle dreaming for a new earth and hoping God will do this work, but we do our part for the community with our little contribution, to walk in "small steps," attempting to heal the damaged environment and to heal the wounded, to share the joy and to promote peach to the world around us.
While working on this reflection, I remembered a young pastor in Indonesia, Erna Listyaningsih. She is serving in a remote village in Lampung, a province in the most southern part of Sumatera Island, surrounded by the poor. Diligently, Erna teaches the women in her congregation "to build a peaceful community" with their neighbors who are mostly from different faith. Erna also works in the rice field together with other women in the village so they can help to improve the economy of her parishioners. Pastor Erna, then initiated to provide education for the children in her village, both for the Christian and the non-Christian. The village has no school yet, so they started homeschooling and until today she is still teaching with the other non-Christian teachers.
I would consider that what Pastor Erna has been doing is a mission attempt to participate in creating a new world and community, to promote shalom for everyone regardless of their faith. It's an inclusive mission endeavor.
Actively working as God's partner to create a new earth, we dream:
- Our mother earth would not suffer from human exploitation anymore, because when the mother earth suffers, all women suffer. When land, air and water are polluted and poisoned, women and children, especially unborn children, are generally the first to be affected by it. To live in the earth where each and every one of us can enjoy the clean and fresh air and live a quality life.
- The end of the culture of violence, the end of its glorification in television, films and newspapers. More boys and men will develop the sensitivity and capacity for relationship with themselves and with others, and people will have a peace in their hearts, a healing of all rifts and ruptures. People will live in shalom in which everything and everyone participates, and of the peace that the world cannot give but for which we must hold ourselves open.
- The poor will have enough rice or bread every day, enough clothes to cover their nakedness and simple shelters to protect them from harm and danger. Their sons and daughters will feel safe and secure, to learn and play freely as they enjoy the freedom for education.
Our gracious and loving Creator, the Lord who cares and loves us beyond what we can ever imagine. As we reflect on your love, your plan for the new heavens and new earth, we are grateful for your faithfulness. Many times we have rebelled and run away from your plan, but Lord, again and again, you have called us to be your partners, to enjoy the loving fellowship with you, and to be part of your wonderful plan. Who are we that you care for us? In your graciousness, you have allowed us to have part in you plan, help us Lord, in our little ways, we will be faithfully do our part.
For some of us, who may have been discouraged from the opposition and rejection in their attempts to promote a peaceful world, we pray Lord, in your mercy, you will touch them and heal them. So once again, we will be able stand up to do our part to create a new heaven and new earth, starting from the community where we belong.
May we always be inspired by the life of Jesus Christ and the lives of all courageous women, like Pastor Erna, never give up, but will be faithfully following Jesus' footsteps, to promote your shalom to the world around us, to build a community of peace—a place where people, both Christians and non-Christians, men and women, children and adults, the old and the young, will come together to celebrate the wonder of your love. In Jesus name. Amen.