The World Is About To Turn
A New Thing
"See, I am about to create a new thing!”
How many of you would believe that if, say, you told me something that was really going wrong in your life and I responded, “God says.... “
How many of us expect each and every day to be better than the one before?
I guess Remembrance Day, and Fall, and a whole bunch of things have just got me thinking.... Somewhere along the way I stopped believing that the glass was half full. Which is odd, as it is the only reason I got into ministry in the first place....
And I know that much of the time, I believe good things are just around the corner.... but not... not... enough of the time.
And because of that I don’t think I risk enough, or play enough, or enjoy what is right in front of my eyes enough... so how about it... do you agree or disagree?
Do you believe, wholeheartedly, with every fibre of your being, that God promises tomorrow to be better than today – and so it will be?
The Holy Mountain
So what is it we want?
I am going to be exploring that a little more with the kids - so for now, let’s talk about Isaiah...
Here is the thing that I find really interesting. This is ‘Third Isaiah”... perhaps a different author than we had at the beginning of the book; but certainly a different purpose in the third part of the book – this is the “after”
First Isaiah has the prophet warning the people that if they don’t smarten up and live right, something bad will happen.
Second Isaiah is the “I told you so” part of the book, written in exile while in Babylon. Actually, there s very little I told you so – there is mostly discussion about what it is like to be faithful to God, even when things are terrible... the poem, song, etc... “By the Rivers of Babylon”...
Third Isaiah – well – they have come home. Years later... and well, buildings are falling down, fields are fallow, and kids don’t remember their own history....
But see – God is about to do a new thing... we are home... and the world will be just as you always hoped... Peace, Justice, You, Health, Food, Home, and no more weeping!
There is always a “but” isn’t there? Well, it is not such a terrible thing – but Isaiah points out that there is no sitting back and waiting for this to happen. God is doing it in our midst; God is doing it THROUGH us.
Perhaps this is where we always get stuck. It would be VERY, VERY nice to have someone come in and rescue us, would it not, the knight on the white charger, or the divine parent that can come in and sooth us while putting the world back together again.
And that is what some people really believe in; really hope for. Both God and the whole host of angels are going to swoop in and rescue us or at the very least, there will be pie in the sky when we die; to paraphrase a friend.
Of course, if we read our Bibles a little more closely we will see that those pesky miracle things are not only few and far between – they also take a whole lot of work on our part.
A quick example... God rescued the Israelites from Captivity in Egypt right? You remember the whole Moses and the Red Sea Miracle that cinched the deal... but consider what had to happen first: Moses agrees to speak for God. Moses returns to Egypt where he faces certain death as a killer and traitor. Then the people need to make up their minds to follow Moses. Then they need to pack everything up and leave everything behind and head out into the desert facing certain death.... then God interceded for five minutes to create a causeway.
Who is it that does most of the work?
So... that is the story that we fit into – that is the promise that is unfolding. We are jointly responsible for making the world what it should be... but there is a good question... what do we wish the world was like? I want you to think about that for a couple of minutes and then I will explore it with the kids.
God's New Creation
With the Kids
Start by drawing pictures of what would “be” in a perfect world - creating the perfect world as an idea.
Talk about how God wants to help us create this world filled with these things and more.
We are, although some of us might be less prepared for it than others, coming to the end of another church year and the beginning of the Christmas season; Lights are up and carols blazing in the malls. People are digging out the decorations early this year too I notice.... perhaps we are just hoping to inject a little joy into a dreary fall.
From a religious point of view the Christmas season always begins in the same place – it begins with Advent... with preparing....
And Advent always begins in the same place as well. It begins with the story of John the Baptist.
And, for that matter, John the Baptist always begins at the same place – Repent!
When I went to Manitoba a couple of weeks back I went to a United Church Conference called TURN. It was a get together of all the people who are in decision making places within the social justice world of the church. It was a conference about our institutional repentance...
Which actually literally means, turning around... the questions being asked were these: What should the world be like? What is our part in creating it? How can we empower more people to join in? How can we begin once more to work towards the light....
The answer that John the Baptist gives us as we begin each year wondering what to do next, is to turn and face a new direction.... face God... and then, as Paul said to the Thessalonians, do not weary in doing what is right.
For the Days are surely coming....
But then... then we have Luke.
The world is meant to be a wonderful place – all puppy dogs and kittens and rainbows... Or as Isaiah might have put it, lions and lambs lying down together....
And God is there inspiring, pushing, even helping along the way...
It is, however, not yet.
And you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette.
London businessman Lindsay Clegg told the story of a warehouse property he was selling. The building had been empty for months and needed repairs. Vandals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows, and strewn trash around the interior.
As he showed a prospective buyer the property, Clegg took pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage, and clean out the garbage.
"Forget about the repairs," the buyer said. "When I buy this place, I'm going to build something completely different. I don't want the building; I want the site."
Or there is the classic Biblical apocalyptic vision which is not just in Luke but peppered throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation: Wars and rumours of war – rivers overflowing their banks with blood – the moon and sun being extinguished – Cats and Dogs living together – complete and utter chaos....
But here is the thing – do you know what the true definition of an artist is: “Someone who can create harmony and beauty from chaos.”
Think about it... Jazz musicians to individual voices in our choir, an artist with a mess of paints and a blank canvass, the potter with a lump of mud and some piles of minerals for colour.... Chaos, ugliness, emptiness....
See, we are reading a snippet, an exhortation, a warning perhaps... and it sounds awful... but then again... it sounds sort of like the world we live in... does it not?
And every time we get here, whether the Babylonians invade, or the stock markets crash the faithful voice of God echoes – ‘These things must happen first.... but see, I am doing a new thing...’
I watched the most amazing video this week. I shared it with all my clergy friends on Facebook which was talking about church. I will post it on all of our websites just to try and give you the opportunity to watch it this week – because you need to see it... it is... what church is...
And it ends with this line: “Church isn’t a community in the Sanctuary – but a Sanctuary in the Community.”
And there it is. That is us. That is UP TO US. We are called to turn towards God and risk being the sanctuary in the chaos – we are the artists of the new creation...