“A New Thing”
Isaiah 43: 16-21, April 7th, 2019
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Communion Sunday & 5th Sunday of Lent
“Hear now these ancient words from the book of the prophet Isaiah, chapter forty-three, verses sixteen thru twenty-one.”
16 Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, 17 who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
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.
20 The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people,
21 the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.
“Having listened to this writing from the Old testament, let us now consider how this prophesy applies to our current time.”
“A New Thing”
Last Sunday afternoon, me and Pastor Winston, listened quietly while 35 of you participated in the first house meeting as the start of the unveiling of the New Beginnings program. What a joy to see so many of you getting involved in this discussion. During the presentation when you were asked to describe what passion means, all I could think of was the tremendous passion which our guest preacher, from Kitwe Zambia, Pastor Winston displayed for us in his sermon last Sunday. As his voice rose up to the rafters, with his alleluia’s and amen, I could feel his passion as he passed it on to each one of us; especially as he got everyone to join him in his responsive amen, and alleluia! That is what passion looks like! When I get up here to preach to you each week, that is the level of passion for our lesson I strive to achieve. Clearly, I do not always pass that level of passion on to all of us in the same way! Yet, as we speak about passion, in regards, to being, a vital and relevant church, we are being asked to consider how important it is for us to be passionate about what we are doing! The prophet Isaiah was seeking that same level of enthusiasm as he spoke to the people of his time, as he was seeking to give them new hope regarding the ‘new things’ which Isaiah was prophesying God was about to do!
Winston, he was very humbled by the generosity of this congregation. He asked me to express, passionately, how much he appreciates the gift which you bestowed upon him. Sunday afternoon, we, Lois, Winston, and I, went to the majestic movie theater in Vero Beach. We saw the Green Book, a fantastic movie! Winston mentioned that he has only been in a theater, here in the United States. If you have not yet seen this 2019 Oscar winning film, it is worth seeing. Then we took him out for a steak dinner. On Tuesday, I went over to see him at the home where he is staying, in Sebastian. I had mentioned to him my friend Pete whom was critically ill ten weeks ago. I had told him how, after being on a ventilator for three weeks, the doctors gave up on him. A priest gave him last rights, I prayed with him and the family for quite a while that evening. The doctors said his organs were failing; they also told us that the neurologist said the test said that his brain was scrambled, a total disaster. We were given no hope that he would survive the night. He did and a week later they transferred him to Kindred hospital, in Melbourne. For the next three weeks his eyes were glazed over, like a patient with brain damage. Three weeks ago, they transferred him to the ‘Life Care Center’ near Palm Bay hospital. I must confess this has been very difficult for me; I lost hope.
Winston insisted we go visit him, so we did. When we arrived his wife and two of his daughters were there. Together, we went to where he was having therapy. When he spotted us, he raised his left hand and waved. (I was stunned!) The therapist was putting ‘stick-on’ electrodes on his legs about six or eight of them. She kept asking if he could feel anything as she turned the switch which increased the electric current to the pads. He waved his right hand and reached down and touched one of the electrodes, thereby indicating that was enough! He could feel the stimulation. Then for about fifteen minutes we talked with Pete. He nodded his head and shrugged his shoulders. He also spoke to me in clear words. When I asked him what I might say to his friends he said: “Tell them hello for me and thanks you for their prayers.” I almost feel off the chair where I was sitting. At one point he rolled his eyes and tossed his head to the side as he chuckled in a way I fully recognized, in response to something we had said. He was displaying his full awareness of who he was, and is, all at the same time. Winston shared his spiritual experience and Pete was fully engages in the conversation. Winston said a prayer for us as we said goodbye. As we left. I realized what a gift Pastor Winston have given me. He had restored my faith and my hope.
It is important for us to realize; we each have opportunities to minister to others. Also, important to remember, every one of us, me included, needs to be nudged now and then to be reminded that it is God whom is in charge, not we ourselves. All we need to do is remain faithful and continue to serve and minister to others as best we can, every day. Hope is when we believe in the things which we witnessed God do for us in the past. In the case of the people of Israel, they needed to be reminded how God was there with Moses as they were set free from their bondage in Egypt. In my case, I have seen the power of God’s grace restore life to a man on his deathbed years ago in Middletown New York. He lived a quality life for three more years. I have also witnessed God’s mercy: when a man, and in another case a woman, was released from their pain, anguish and suffering and passed from this life into the next. We as a congregation, need to be conscious of how God has done mystical things with this congregation throughout its one hundred and thirty years in this greater community. We need to be reminded of this as we turn our eyes toward God’s movement among us as we travel into the time period that is yet to be. Let us not lose hope.
Mark Throntveit, a professor of Old Testament studies, tells us: “There is no need to limit God to past mercies. God is an ever-present help, to quote the old hymn.” When we look to the history of this church, when we acknowledge the years of ministry to the people of this region, we can take pride in it. At the same time, we can give thanks to God for the inspiration and leadership from those who came before us, whom understood ‘why’ this church was formed! You and I, we are being challenged to remember the why of our ministry and to reorient ourselves to keep putting the why we exist ahead of the how and the what we do as a church! This is a powerful task being put before us and it will test our faith. Let us allow our passion for serving the people of God, to rise above and beyond our doubts and hesitations!
Another theologian, Dr. Alan Brehm, restates this in a new context. “We are all called to take our faith in God from the past and bring it into the present, regardless of how hopeless or desperate the situation may seem.” My friend was as good as dead, and the doctors all agreed, there was no hope. His wife and daughters refused to accept their words. They looked to the past and saw how this father, this husband had persevered in the most difficult of time, and they too, refused to give up hope! Pete had always displayed his belief in miracles, so they hung onto that! Faith and hope are tightly tied together. We cannot have one without the other! With faith we can learn to trust in the power of prayer. Through that trust we can begin to reaffirm our willingness to hope! It is through our renewed attitude of hope – which shall propel us into our destinies!
We can apply this message, this lesson, to our New Beginnings program. It’s focus is inviting us to consider doing a “New thing.’ This process asks us to follow some simple basics, which we as Christians are expected to have already incorporated into our personal faith journey’s. Now, let us do this as a community. With faith and trust in God, we need to accept the truth of where we are now. Looking at ourselves in the context of life’s realities as they now exist in our sphere, our domain. We need to honestly search ourselves and see if we are truly living as followers, disciples of Christ. Being a Christian means we follow in the teachings of Jesus and are following in his example. Are we currently doing that? We need to come to grips with how we are or are not, ‘relevant’ to the community we are a part of, here in this area of Palm Bay. As we answer these questions, we need to find that passion which Pastor Winston stirred up within us. Pushing ourselves to be more essential and vital to the people of God – all around us! Let us ask ourselves: “What does our Creator require of us but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God?” /Micah 6:8b/ We shall do this best – when and as we simply trust God, to lead us in “A New Thing!”