New Things I Now Declare

The lectionary text for today comes to us from Isaiah 42:5-9 which reads: 
42:5 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it:
42:6 I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,
42:7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
42:8 I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols.
42:9 See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.
It is Monday of Holy Week---the week of weeks in the Christian calendar.  We began our journey into the Passion of Jesus yesterday with Palm Sunday, and the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.   

And now we are walking with him as he heads ever closer to the Cross, and ultimately the Tomb.  

This passage from Isaiah spoke to me this morning on a lot of levels.  

On the one hand, it's included in the lectionary texts for today because it speaks of the Suffering Servant, the true Israelite who will demonstrate to God's people what it means to fully return back to God, to renew right relationship, to set things to right.  

There's a promise in this passage.  A broad promise to all the nations, to all peoples in all places and times.  God is about to do something amazing in the midst of all of the suffering God's people have endured.  

All of the former things have passed---there are new things afoot, and God seems to bursting with joy to share this news with the people who have felt darkness and silence from God, and not much else.  

And further, this is something that God's people are to participate in.  God has raised them up, taken them by the hand, led them to a place where they can bear witness to God's grace and goodness.  

But there's a deeper meaning for me right now because of the situation we are in due to the COVID-19 crisis.  

This isn't about faith for the sake of faith.  It's not blithe optimism just to keep from feeling poorly.  There are no pithy, feel-good responses here.  There is memory and hope.  

God is at work in the midst of this crisis.  The God who created all things, who gives breath and life through the Spirit of God who connects all things to all things.  This God has new things for us if we are willing to see them.  

It might feel sometimes as though the days run together in the middle of all of this self-isolation, quarantining and shelter-in-place orders.  The weeks ahead seem insurmountable as we wait, and struggle to keep our heads up.  

God invites us to remember what God has done in the past---the ways that God has been present in our lives and in the world all around us.  We are invited to recall the many times in our own lives when we have seen miracles, witnessed the unexplainable, seen the impossible made possible.  

And we have all had those moments.  Every one of us.  We don't have to look far for them because they are part of our own story.  The chance meetings that turned into lifelong commitment.  The moments when someone speaks so directly into our lives we know it came from somewhere else.  The last minute windfall that saved our business. 

Our list of miracles is long indeed.  

So we remember, and then we have hope.  The hope was there all along, we just needed to be reminded of why we feel it.  We needed to reconnect with it on a level that is free from fear, judgment, doubt and worry.  

But we don't dwell in the past, thinking that God doesn't act in our lives any longer.  Not by a long shot.  God is always moving us forward into the future, and that is where we need to go.  

There are new things about to happen, and I  for one believe they will be amazing.  We don't have to be afraid.  God is present with us in the midst of this, and God's very present presence is what we need now more than ever.  

May you find hope and truth in this, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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