Sunday we continue our walk through some of the wisdom literature of the Bible, drawing from both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, in our series Timeless Wisdom. We turn first to the words of the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes — a philosopher and teacher writing about 2,300 years ago. This writer begins with a message that everything is “vanity.” The word literally means “a breath.” “Vanity of vanities,” he says. “All is vanity.” The Common English Bible translation captures the meaning in a way that is more understandable: “Perfectly pointless, says the Teacher, perfectly pointless. Everything is pointless.” There’s a kind of meaninglessness about life that echoes through the opening words of Ecclesiastes. There’s nothing new, everything is just repeated. It’s pretty much drudgery: people are born, people die, people come and people go, the sun rises and the sun sets. It’s just an endless, essentially meaningless cycle.
Now, if you were to ask this writer, “What’s New?” He would say, “Nothing. There’s nothing new. It’s all vanity. It’s all a breath. The eye isn’t satisfied with seeing and the ear isn’t filled up by hearing. Whatever has happened — that’s what will happen again; whatever has occurred — that’s what will occur again. There’s nothing new under the sun.”
But at the heart of the Christian Gospel is another word. It’s the Apostle Paul who has discovered a different reality. He says, “If anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Paul is describing a gift that God has given to us in Christ, the greatest gift of all, new life, new beginnings, a chance to start over. On this Sunday, particularly, we are mindful of that gift, but the truth is that gift is given to us every day, every moment, the gift of starting over, beginning again.
In Christ we are new creations. There’s newness, so if you were to ask Paul, “What’s new?” Paul’s answer would be, “In Christ, everything, everything. Christ makes all things new.”
John of Patmos, an exile for his faith who wrote the book of Revelation, recounts the words of the Risen Christ revealed to him in his vision, his revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.”
It is a theme we see over and over again in scripture:
In Isaiah (43:19), “Behold, I’m doing a new thing.”
In Ezekiel (36:26) the words, “I’ll give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them.”
In Jeremiah (31:31) the words, “The days are surely coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”
“A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you,” the Lord says to the Prophet Ezekiel (11:19).
The Gospel of Luke, 22 Chapter, the 20th verse, “This is the cup poured out for you and for many. It is the new covenant in my blood.” Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment that you love one another.”
Time and again, when it describes the work of God the word new appears because, in short, Christ makes all things new.
Sunday we will hear the timeless wisdom of Ecclesiastes and Paul: the challenge to learn from the past and look toward the future with hope. I look forward to seeing you then!
Grace and Peace,
The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south, and goes around to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they continue to flow. All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has already been, in the ages before us.
2 Corinthians 5
So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation.