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I am Doing a New Thing in your Midst. Do You Not Perceive It?

Isaiah 43:16–21
Psalm 126

The scene is Babylon six Centuries before Christ! The prophet is Isaiah. Second Isaiah actually, sometimes called the book of Comfort, words delivered to those living in exile in Babylon.

Walter Bruegemann, master of exile theology, says that like those carried off into Babylon, this generation has to deal with the ending of an era; an ending of “the way things have been”.

He suggests that

•Exile is a place where one way of being has ended and another not yet begun.

•Exile is “between time”; between the time when we knew the questions, and even some of the answers; and the time when we are forced to ask new questions that we have not yet been able to imagine.

•Exile happens as paradigms shift and we do not feel at home in the radically rearranging world.

•Exile is also where we recognize that our own resources, our own abilities to control our situation have reached their limits, and we are forced to rely on the radical freedom of God’s Spirit.

Exile can also be profoundly personal. We are given a diagnosis of terminal illness; we are thrown into exile. Our partner leaves or dies; we are thrown into exile. The job we thought would always be secure is suddenly wrenched from us; we are thrown into exile. You can complete the list from your own experience. I know many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Some exiles are chosen. We enter them because we know we need to radically reorient our lives. Other exiles are forced upon us and we are dragged into them kicking and screaming. Either way, exile is a time of grieving for what has been lost; a time of living with uncertain transition; a time of figuring out who we are in this new reality into which we have been thrust. Eventually exile is also about allowing the “new thing God is doing” to emerge, even when it is not very clear at the time.

The biblical exile was traumatic. It etched its pain and story into the soul of Judaism. But it was also a time when people returned to their ancient sacred stories and found deep meaning in them. It was a time when scripture was collected and written down. (The Genesis 1 creation story comes from this experience). It was a time for prophets called forth by the Spirit. And it was a time when a whole new way of being a people of God emerged. The synagogue movement, a lay movement away from the temple priestly tradition, emerged by necessity out of this period of being cut off from temple and institutional religion. All of this has been foundational for modern Judaism.

It is a good reminder to us in our times of dislocation, when foundations are crumbling, that wherever we are at any particular point in the process, is not the end of the story; It’s only one vantage point along the way. God may be doing some whole new thing, that we have not even begun to catch sight of, or to imagine.

The good news of Isaiah is that exile, whether by incarceration in Babylon, crucifixion by Rome, or our personal devastations is not the final word. The good news of our reading from Isaiah is that hope resides in the power of God.

“Do not remember” is not a blanket statement that the past is useless. Indeed Isaiah remembers well God’s work in creation and the exodus of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt through the sea. What God promises this time is a whole new act of creation of the people; an exodus away from Babylon back home to Jerusalem this time through the very wilderness where wild animals had devoured many on their journey into exile. It was a promise that was almost unimaginable! Do not assume God will always work in the same ways says Isaiah. God will do a new thing. right in your very midst.

The earth itself is given voice.The wild beasts, the jackals the ostriches, the rivers in the wasteland all honour God.. Isaiah does not simply say God does things that create change in creation. Creation itself responds to and with the creative activity of God. What it might mean for people of faith to listen for the voice and witness of the earth. That would be a new thing God is doing in our midst!!!

I am doing a new thing in your midst. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it? Are these just ancient words with no meaning today? or is God still doing new things in our midst, saying “pay attention! notice! “

Today we have celebrated one new thing God is doing in our midst. Baptism and new members. Each time we receive new people into our community, we welcome their gifts, their experience, their questions, their ideas… When we truly welcome new people into the heart of our community we are changed by them.

 I am doing a new thing in your midst. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?

I’d like all those who have spent the last 6 weeks attending 2/1/2 hour training sessions for Pastoral Care Team to please stand. There are 14 of them, God’s heart must rejoice at this new thing, this ministry of caring that will be done through you.

I am doing a new thing in your midst. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?

All those who attended the Magnetic Church event last weekend please stand. Each of these people have been called to a ministry of welcome and creating an environment in our building and in our congregation to welcome and integrate newcomers. The board has blessed them to work on this! Please speak to them and join them in this important ministry. It will take many more. We have good news to share!

I am doing a new thing in your midst. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?

Will all those who were on the Joint Needs Assessment please stand.

This hard working group of people have worked to prepare a document which will be read by those interested in becoming your new minister. I hope you will all stay for the meeting following the service as this is important stuff in this time of transition; this time of uncertainty; of endings and beginnings. God is doing a new thing in our midst as wonder where God will lead us.

I am doing a new thing in your midst. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it

We have new leadership for our Christian Development ministry as well. And are talking about fresh new ways of being church with young families. Christy Smith-favit, and Martha and Vincent are part of that discussion.

I am doing a new thing in your midst. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?

Look up, look way way up… NO it is not the Sleeping Giant, which many of you are too young to remember. It is our roof project which reminds us of the wonderful things that happen under our roof, and is a tribute to the generosity and commitment of our congregation and alumnae who have chosen to make this powerful statement that we intend to be around for the next 5o years at least…just like our new steel roof!

God is doing a new thing in our midst!

Yesterday 32 young families almost all from outside the church, responded to Elizabeth’s invitation to be part of a consignment sale for kids stuff. They brought their friends and now a whole community of people who did not know Cedar Park have been through our doors, seen all of our activity boards, experienced welcome.

This is part of Being a Church without walls as we say in our identity and vision statement. Groups like Voices for Hope, Youth in Action, Grandmothers to Grandmothers, Faith Discussion, our Lenten study and many others reach out into the community offering community and growth. Many from the larger community are part of these.

I am doing a new thing in your midst. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?

Another new thing God is doing in our midst is Elisabeth Jones’ bible study blog called beyond wood and stone which you can access through our website. I’d like to close with some words from that blog reflecting on this scripture:

“What’s going on in our own life right now for which we crave for God to do a “New Thing” for us? To people in the deserts of Babylon, the picture of life-giving water was a stretch of the imagination, a stretch of vision, almost beyond their capacity to dare or to hope. But that is Isaiah’s point. The God Isaiah knows is capable of taking Israel back home. Imagine your desert, and dare to hope and envision, and dream that God can, and will do a “New Thing” a life-giving or life-restoring thing, that God can take you from wilderness to newness.”

I am doing a new thing in your midst. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?

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