see, I am doing a new thing… Lent 5
Isaiah 43: 16-21
How do you feel about change?! Does it excite you, or make you wary? Do you take time to get used to something new, or embrace it immediately?
It is rather a time of new things happening at the moment. On Thursday we will witness the enthronement of the new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby – a new era for the Anglican Church and especially the Church of England.
On Wednesday last week we saw the election of Pope Francis, leader of our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, and already by all accounts someone who is going to change the way things are run and the emphasis that the Roman church will be led with.
Change & newness is a funny thing, we seem, even those of us who are the type of people who feel compelled to move the furniture around for no other reason than we felt like something different to have an inbuilt resistance to things changing. Depending on your personality or your energy levels, or previous experience this can be greater or lesser, but anyone who has ever tried to introduce something new into a family or an organisation knows that it’s not always met with arms open and a “can do” attitude.
Sometimes it’s the strangest things that we trip up on. As a lifelong rugby fan I still have to remind myself that it’s the 6 nations & not 5 and that Italy aren’t the new kids on the block any more – far from it! (& apologies to anyone with Irish loyalties!)
Again & again though we read in scriptures of the fact that change & renewal is something built into the very DNA of our life & faith. Our God is a God of future and a God of renewal.
Today we read in both Isaiah and in Paul’s letter a rallying cry, a reminder of the charge we have to look to the new, to change and to hope.
“Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing, now it springs forth, to you not perceive it?”
God is always about to do a new thing, a fresh thing.
Go does not stand still, in our own lives, in our church lives and in the life & issues of our culture and our world.
I am about to do a NEW THING
In this passage, Isaiah uses a metaphor based on the liberation of the Children of Israel from Egypt, the path in the mighty waters –
The horse & chariot of the enemy are no more, they are wiped out, extinguished, they are gone.
Change begins in us, the work God does in each one of us, liberating us from the power of sin & death in our own lives through Jesus,
The old us, the old life has gone, swept away in the waters –
What has been has been and now here we are ready for a fresh start, time to build and move on.
Personal change is where God starts his work of change in his world.
Unless we ourselves are open to the new thing God wants to do in each one of us, we will not be able to be open to the new things he has for our church and our world.
Isaiah asks a question here – D o you not see it?!
Can you not see what it is that God wants to do?
So often we get bogged down in what has been, we dwell too much on the former things, the mistakes of the past, the discussion & deliberations that have gone before, in every issue, in every community.
We lack the vision, we lack the courage to forget the things of Old.
Paul nails it when he says “forgetting what lies behind”
If we are on a journey, we aren’t going to get very far if we keep looking where we’ve come from…
How many of you have turned the car back as you start off on holiday, to check the gas, or the bathroom window, to pick up another forgotten item, or make sure something else has been done.?
The start is delayed; we’re not getting further down the road, when we keep going back.
Forgetting what lies behind..
I don’t think God is asking us to ignore the past – our past is what has made & formed us, our past as a church and a nation has shaped us, and taught us,
But the past is not to be a pull back, it’s not to be one of those bungee cords tied to our backs, that as soon as we stop pulling on it pings us back to where we began.
The past is where we start from. But See…. I am doing a NEW THING…
Why, you might be asking do we need change anyway?! What IS wrong with how things are, or were?
Both Paul & Isaiah give us reasons fro the new steps on the journey. They’re not change for changes sake, there is a purpose.
I mentioned earlier that there are people who get a sudden urge to move furniture around, for no real reason, it’s inexplicable –and could be described as change for change’s sake,
Isaiah gives us a reason for God’s call to a new thing – “so that they might declare my praise”
And Paul is pressing on, not looking behind “towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus”
In other words God calls us on to new things for His glory,
That his name might be made known,
He calls us onto new things in our own lives, our knowledge of him, our freedom from sin & the past, and towards the call of the vocation he has for us.
Change & renewal is necessary for us to face issues in our world, to be light & salt in our culture and our nation and our neighbourhoods.
Ultimately change & renewal are for the glory of God, and the furtherance of his kingdom on earth.
The thing is that we can get stuck…
Stuck in ruts that we have made
Stuck in comfortable situations
Stuck in situations of confusion and fear
Like caged animals with the door suddenly open, we can remain where we are paralysed by fear and indecision.
We rehears the same old discussions and debates, rather than actually moving forward into something much scarier but ultimately more productive.
We frustrate ourselves, looking as if we’re moving but really just going over & over old “new” things.
We have seen the empty tomb but spend our time wandering in the garden peering in, and wondering, rather than going out and living the resurrection life, living the newness, and discovering what it means for us.
When Mary Magdalene came to the garden and found the tomb empty, she stayed; she was paralysed by grief and fear.
Jesus was risen but she could not live in the truth of that, not until she met him, face to face.
It was that transforming encounter that changed her life, which enabled her to step out, to change things to embrace the new.
The thing that really enables us to see the new thing that God is doing is an encounter with the living risen Jesus
Mary went straight to tell the others what had happened –immediately she begins to live the mission of Jesus, the call to further the Kingdom, a call that demanded not talking not discussion, not thinking and re rehearsing, but living, stepping out into the reality of something so new and so radical that it was almost unthinkable –the defeat of death itself.
There is movement and action
Not static sitting, and waiting, new things springing forth,
The Kingdom of God, the mission of Jesus is one of reconciliation -
Peace with God
Peace with ourselves
Peace with our past
Peace with each other
We press on towards the goal,
We take hold of the new things that are ahead of us,
The Heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus,
God is always calling us onward, into new things,
Let us press on in him,
Let us recognise what he is doing and work with him,
New starts, new life, scary, exciting new things ahead of us -
So that we might, as his people declare his praise.