North Highland United Methodist Church
Monday, May 17, 2021
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

January 2016

New Things
18 Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.19 I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43: 18-19
These verses from Isaiah are when the people of Israel—God’s people—are in a pretty big mess. They have been conquered by the armies of Babylon and are living in a foreign place of Babylon; families are torn apart and the temple destroyed. If we read all of the verses of Isiah 43, we would see that basically God is saying through the prophet: the one who made you is the one who will redeem you. The prophet is encouraging the people to have faith in the workings of God. And yet the words are surprising: “do not remember the former things…I am about to do a new thing”. It is easy to imagine that many thought that the only way to redeem the incredible mess of greed, injustice and unfaithfulness was to remember what their ancestors did—how they lived and attempt to emulate bits of that life.
But it seems that over the next five centuries or so, that was not going to be sufficient. Tradition keeps us centered—we have traditions of family, religion, or community. Here is a quote from an article I recently read: “Tradition proclaims our past and defines our roots. But tradition for tradition's sake is as problematic as change for change's sake. Faith demands that we cling to the wisdom of tradition, while being open to possibilities change brings.”
The prophet’s words were still ringing in the ears of the faithful 500 years or so later when once again real and abundant life was being choked out by greed and injustice—and God did a new thing—in the birth of Jesus. It seems God is forever creating streams of life in the deserts that we humans seem to create. Do we have confidence that God is still doing a “new thing” or have we joined the choir that sings only of doom and gloom?
Personally I find it invigorating to discover something new about the workings of God—seeing something from a different perspective. Moving to a deeper understanding of what I learned in the past does not mean that God is somehow less—it usually means that my understanding who God is in relation to humanity is even bigger. What if God is still today saying, “I am doing a new thing”—what if the amazing time in which we live is a time to see God in new faces or places or ways?
The words of the ancient prophet continue to speak …faith means trust that God continues to lead us on new paths God has created for us. Faith is hope and confidence that the God did a new thing in Jesus Christ, and that we are now the vessels through whom his kingdom work is revealed. Alone we humans will continue to create deserts of injustice and corruption. But truly seeking God leads us to hope where the impossible will come about. Hope is the season of Christmas. Hope is the season of Epiphany to which we are heading. Faith without hope stays stuck in the past. Opening ourselves to all of the possibilities of God brings the past alive, gives the present time meaning, and leads us to a future of hope.
When you read this, the new year will be here. What new thing might God do among us? Might we be open as a denomination, a church, a community to a new way of relating to one another? Will we keep alive the faith traditions of reconciliation, peace and goodwill? May the traditions we keep alive be those that speak and bring abundant life.
Happy New Year!
Pastor Lou