Howard Carter is a Presbyterian minister and church planter in Auckland New Zealand. In this blog he reflects on God, life, the scriptures, family, Church and church planting, film and media and other stuff. Join him as he reflects on the Journey.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
On the First Day... In the Garden: Ressurection as New Creation In John's Gsoepl (john 20:1-18)
can help but think of a friend of mine Tim keel when I
read John’s account of the resurrection. Tim is the founding pastor of Jacob’s
well in Kansas city, and he was also a lecturer in congregational leadership
and life at Laidlaw out in West Auckland. I went and audited his classes on
“Missional Leadership”. Tim talked of the fact that as a church we have found
our imaginations held captive to one way of understanding the life, death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ, one motif that flows through the whole of
scripture. That is the priestly narrative, of sacrifice and forgiveness of
sins, paying the price and ritual purity. There is nothing wrong with that, its
biblical, it’s beautiful and meaningful, it is where we get our judicial
understanding of what Christ has done for us … that catch cry of the
reformation, that wonderful release from guilt and shame… we are justified by
faith, made right with God through the gracious acts of Jesus Christ.But if we don’t see or hear the other
narratives running through the whole of scripture and through the gospel and
finding their fulfilment in the crucifixion and resurrection we can miss
something of the wonder and the glory and the reality of that event.
talks of four narratives, four threads that are woven together in scripture…
narrative: ritual cleanliness.
Liberation Narrative: God as liberator; the slavery to freedom story that
Israel tells of her journey to nationhood.
restoration narrative: God as restorer… the story of exile and return, of reconciliation, renewal and restoration. We
started the year by looking at the book of Haggai which fits in this both
historically and theologically.
creation, recreation narrative: God as creator, God has made the heavens and
the earth and is making a new heaven and a new earth.
You can see
these threads running through the different gospels, they are lenses which help
us to grasp the wonder and depth of what the LORD has done for us.
So how does
this apply to today, to the resurrection, to John’s gospel, why start with this
bit of academic theological… musing.
can’t help but look at John’s story of the resurrection without seeing the
wonderful narrative of God’s new creation, that in Christ’s death and
resurrection this new creation has started , the new heavens and the new earth
are breaking into the realms of the old, into history, into peoples lives, into
your life and mine and the world which we live. ‘Therefore’ says Paul in 2
Corinthians 5:17 in Christ, you are a new creation, the old has gone the new
gospel starts not by looking at back at Jesus birth, showing how his coming was
in fulfilment of scripture; or even his genealogy, his whakapapa, linking him
back with the story of God’s liberation, sanctification and restoration but
with Jesus origins in eternity… In the beginning was the word, and the word was
with God, and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning Through him
all thing were made that have been made, without him nothing was made that has
been made.’Then John goes on to say in
his prologue ‘the word became flesh and dwelt amongst us, the creator entered
into his creation. We can see in the gospels a taste of this new creation, the
recovery of sight for the blind, Lazarus raised from the dead, but with the
resurrection there is a fresh start the reality of new creation enters our
world. The image behind me is a part of the eagle nebula called the pillars of
creation… dust left over from some cosmic event.
resurrection account starts with on the first day… in the garden. It may seem
that John is simply placing the events when and where they happened, but these
are words that resonate with creation, full of the origins of genesis, on the
first day… in the garden. Here is the origin the genesis of the new creation
long hoped for in passages like Isaiah 65 we had read to us today.
The new creation
like the old that comes into reality in the spoken word of God… the word became
flesh… Jesus triumphant cry from the cross ”it is finished”
It’s a new
creation that starts by overcoming decay and death, sin and wrongdoing that
marred the old. Death has been swallowed up by victory.
But it’s a
new creation that does not come like the old creation, with a big bang… if I
may borrow the words of physics, it comes slowly into the world, like a new
dawn slowly sheds its light on the waning darkness of night. It comes as Jesus said as a seed falls to the
ground and dies so it will bear much fruit. It starts like the seedling
breaking out of the soil… on the first day in the garden. The tomb is empty
Jesus has risen.
into the life of a women mourning and weeping in the garden, full of grief
because her hope had been brutally killed and now the worst of indignities, she
thinks, his body has been stolen. It comes with the reassuring speaking of her
name, of being known, “Mary”, and in a way that is totally the opposite of a
grief induced hallucination, from realising the one she had thought the
gardener is in actual fact her Rabboni, her teacher, Jesus.New creation breaks into her life, just as it
had when she had first encountered Jesus, this time it brings hope when there
seemed to be an end of hope, joy where there was only sorrow, love in the place
of loss and purpose and meaning as she is told to go and tell the others.
that goes on past where we stopped reading in John’s gospel today, to Jesus
disciples gathered in a locked room , full of fear, and Jesus appears in their
midst, right away he offers them peace, instead of fear. He breathes on them
and they receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God that hovered over the
waters, the agent of God’s creation, now fills them. Jesus invites them to go
beyond the walls to be agents of reconciliation and renewal. That they can
bring that new creation into the lives of othersIf you forgive the sins of anyone they are
forgiven, there is the hope of new creation, restored relationship, new birth…
but also Jesus says if they do not forgive then there is no forgiveness. This
new creation does not force its way in to the old, Jesus may not be hindered by
walls and locked rooms but for it to grow we must unbolt doors and walk out
from behind our walls, physical and spiritual.
It is new
creation that breaks into the life of a man who is so hurt and cut off, that he
is not willing to even entertain the idea
that Jesus is alive unless he can have hands on proof. He encounters Jesus and
is true to his word and believes. Thomas is the first to confess “My Lord and
my God” to recognise the divinity of Jesus. It is new life and new creation
that can reach into our lives as Jesus says ‘Blessed are those who have not
seen and yet believe”. While we have the book of Acts and it tells the story of
the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, Thomas takes the gospel east
to Syria and even to India where some churches claims him as their founder.
It is new
creation that breaks into the life of Peter, who denied Christ three times, who
simply wants to go back to his old life and the familiar “let’s go fishing”. It is a
new creation over a breakfast meal that restores Relationship and gives purpose
and meaning… “Do you love me peter, do you love meDo you love me… yes then feed my sheep.
It is a new
creation that we can read on in the scriptures that is manifested in the
creation of a new people, a new way to be human. People from across the
barriers of society coming together as one in Christ, to live in a new way , to
live out and live in new creation.
It is new
creation that goes beyond those gospel pages… John says the reason he wrote his gospel is so
that you and I may believe. This new creation breaks into our lives and into
our world. It happens when broken lives are made whole, when people turn to
Christ for new life, beyond that it breaks in where poverty and suffering are
meet with care and justice, like a young nun on a train hearing the call to
care for the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, sparking a world-wide movement. A
mercy ship, a floating hospital takes medical care and christen concern tothe poorest of the poor, In simply acts of
kindness round our neighbourhood and sacrificial love, in caring for the old
creation and wanting to see the new bloom within it.
set backs and as we know the old resists the new, Paul talks of the battle that
rages between the new nature and the old. It’s liberating to read the letters
written to those first expressions and a new people, of new humanity to see
that they like us wrestled with how this new life was to be lived out together,
but even in the midst of that the new creation seems to reach out and break
into the old.
There are struggles on a grander scale.
facing a decline in the church in the west it is hard to this new creation
happening, it can feel like death and decay. But even here there is the hope of
new creation, new life and new birth, new creation cannot be contained and
domesticated in a certain way of doing things, in an understanding of being
God’s people, in buildings and rituals and structures. The Spirit of God that
hovered over the chaos at creation also hovers over the world and is about the
work of new creation of liberation of restoration of making clean and pure, and
just and waits for us to go and find where those growth tips of new creation
are and join ourselves to the mission of God. In the end no grave or other
structure will hold the risen saviour Jesus from being the font of new
The way we
order the different writing in the bible mean that the gospel story finishes
with a book attributed to John, revelations, a book which was written to those
who found themselves suffering in the struggle between the powers of the old
and the reality of the new in Christ. It is written in a type of literature
called apocalyptic language, a sort of code from the first century that we are
not totally familiar with today, its full of pictures of what is happening in
the world as part of a cosmic framework, and in the end it tells the story that
the new creation that breaks into our world with the coming of Christ and his
death and resurrection will find its ultimate fulfilment in the return of its
risen king. The old has passed away and the new that has come will be
consummated. But for now as we encounter and believe in the risen Jesus Christ
that new creation comes into our lives, into our world, it breaks the chains of
the old and gives new life, it bring healing and wholeness, hope of change at
an individual level, at a communal level at a systemic level.
So today we
celebrate that first day… in the garden… Jesus is alive… he is risen… new life,
new hope, new starts, new creation, the old has passed behold I make all things
Howard Carter is a Presbyterian Minister in his early fifties. He is the minister at St Peter's Presbyterian Church Ellerslie Mt Wellington. A congregaion that is wanting to face the challange of being Christ's body in a twenty first century, multi-cultural, multi-generational, suburban environment. "it's challanging", says Howard, "I feel totally inadiquate, but rely on Jesus, who is able to be strong in my weakness".
Yes he's married to Kris and has four children. So he'sboth blessed and busy.
Howard posts the messages he preaches on Sundays (the long posts with heaps of images), the occasional reflection, prayers he writes for services (when he's in a liturgical mood) and movie review.