Wait for It

by Pastor Doug Stratton — May 10, 2020

Isaiah 43:16-21

This is what the Lord says – 

  he who made a way through the sea,

a path through the mighty waters,

17 who drew out the chariots and horses,

the army and reinforcements together,

and they lay there, never to rise again,

extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:

18 “Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past.

19 See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland.

20 The wild animals honor me,

the jackals and the owls,

because I provide water in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland,

to give drink to my people, my chosen,

21     the people I formed for myself

that they may proclaim my praise.

Psalm 56:8

You keep track of all my sorrows.

You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

You have recorded each one in your book.

Intro:  This year Mother’s Day will be memorable, while it will be memorable, it will not be unique. 

There are changes in our church, our community, our state, our nation and our world that will not go away when we reach the “green” stage of recovery. Biology is doing a new thing in our midst that we did not imagine even 3 months ago. The coronavirus was something “over there”. But then…

New things… Can you feel them in air right now? There is change in the wind. I’m not talking about new shiny things, I am talking about new ways of living and relating – New ways of caring and sharing – New sets of values and priorities. New things… Some of which we will embrace with joy, some which will bring with them sorrow.

When Isaiah addressed the people, they were getting tired of the old ways. They had come to believe that their ancestors had done something really bad, and that is why they were living in exile. They remembered the wonderful things that God had done in the past, they retold the stories to one another, they even began to write the stories down – the stories of creation, of punishment, of their origin, of deliverance, of victory, of glory, of shame, and of defeat. And as they relived those stories, they longed to see God act in the way God had acted in the past. In fact, the people became quite bitter against God.

Psalm 44 says:

We have heard it with our ears, O God;

our ancestors have told us

what you did in their days,

in days long ago.

But now you have rejected and humbled us;

you no longer go out with our armies.

All this came upon us,

though we had not forgotten you;

we had not been false to your covenant.

And it seemed, the more they focused on the past, the more angry they became.

So Isaiah had a word for them. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!

But before there can be the new thing God longs to do, the old things must be removed or they will get in the way of what God is doing.

Jennifer Clark is at a turning point in her life. I have asked that she join us today for a conversation about new things.

  1. What is happening in your life right now?
  2. As you think about the new doors opening, tell me about some of the doors that are closing behind you.
  3. What goes through your mind when you hear the words, ““Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!
  4. Is there anything else you wish to share with us?

Yes, things are changing. I had someone this week say, “I’m glad we are being forced to move into the 21st century.” Maybe. But we are also becoming more aware of the need for good hygiene, we are learning to focus on things that matter. We are discovering ways of reaching out to our neighbors. We are getting to know the people in our communities.

And things are changing within our churches. We are discovering that the church really is the people and not the building. We are learning that ministry is what happens each day our lives, not what happens on the church property. We are learning that the scriptures express our fears as well as our joys, and that God is present in the midst of both! These things have always been true, but we are rediscovering them as we journey together.

But there are also things changing in the way we live. An online presence for the church is no longer optional. People who had objected to using technology are finding it to be a blessing. We are learning to care for and deal with one another in new ways.

With new things emerging all around us there are also familiar things that are disappearing. Things like seeing smiles in the stores; hugging friends that we have missed; cheering for the Phillies in the stadium; attending funerals for friends and neighbors; celebrating graduations, birthdays, weddings and anniversaries – as well as trust in our public institutions and deep divisions setting lives lost to virus against lives and futures lost to and economic depression. And the list could go on.

       How many of us have shed tears throughout this crisis? Tears for our loved ones, tears for our nation, tears for those who are hungry, tears for those who are grieving alone; tears from loneliness – all of these tears come from deep within our Souls.

As I thought about the new things we are experiencing and the losses that come with the new things, I was drawn to Psalm 56:8

You keep track of all my sorrows.

You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

You have recorded each one in your book.

Have you ever stopped to consider that God is keeping track of all your sorrows? God knows each one of them. God has seen you cry until you can’t cry any more. God has witnessed your heartache over a difficult child, a wayward spouse, a broken friendship, or the death of a loved one. God has seen your tears when you have cried all alone in the dark, not sure of where to turn or where to go. But even more, God has collected all those tears, they occupy a place in the heart of God! Each one recorded. In this time of change, cling to this truth – You are precious to God!

Take time today to thank God for that truth; imagine your bottle of tears that is treasured by God; rest in God’s loving embrace.

~ Pastor Doug