Perhaps the most striking thing of all about the vision of the new heaven and earth at the end of Revelation is that it is indeed new. This is worth probing and pondering carefully. It is new in the sense we have already spoken about: the created world is not returned to its beginning but (like the risen body of Christ) elevated to a fresh level. But it is surely “new” in another sense also—it is ever new. In the world to come, nothing ever becomes old, and since it is hard to imagine this as a static state of perfection (if time and movement, as part of God’s creation, are taken up in the new heaven and earth), we must surely speak of endless and surprising novelty as belonging to the new creation. We dare to envisage the Holy Spirit weaving limitless, unpredictable improvisations out of the “givens” of creation, doubtless to the delight of us all.
What needs subverting here is the common assumption that there are only two possible basic shapes to our lives—order and disorder. Order is considered good and fruitful—disorder evil and damaging. If our house is immaculate, we are complimented; if it looks like bedlam, we apologize. But are order and disorder the only options? What about laughter? It is not order (predictably patterned) but nor is it disorder (destructive). It is an example of what Daniel Hardy and David Ford call “non-order,” or the “jazz-factor.” . . .
[One] of the reasons artists and pastors need each other is to learn and relearn together that the richest fruit comes from the interplay between order and non-order, between the given chords and the improvised riff, between the faithful bass of God’s grace and the novel whirls of the Spirit. The question for pastors, then, is: Are you prepared to allow artists room to provoke the church to venture into risky arenas of novelty—a fresh “take” on a parable, a hitherto unexplored zone of culture? The question for artists is: Are you prepared to get to know the “bass lines” of artistic tradition, and, more fundamentally, the bass lines that God uses to hold his church in the faith?