Rev. Valarie Englert, Senior Pastor
Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
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.
Isaiah 43:18-19 NRSV
We often equate vision with seeing; what we see helps us form perceptions about reality.
If we see things a certain way, then they are that way.
Vision, however, moves us beyond what we see; the exercise of vision involves discernment and heart.
In the 43rd chapter of Isaiah, the prophet is calling the children of God to a new vision which will move them beyond what they see.
When Isaiah brought this word to the people of Israel, they had seen devastation of their homeland.
They were experiencing a strange new culture after being deported to Babylon.
They must have pined for what they had seen and known before all this happened – the familiar, the known.
But through the prophet, the God who cannot be seen was calling the people to perceive a new thing that they could not see.
A new movement of God was swirling amongst them, calling them to a new understanding of themselves and who they were called to be in God’s great work of salvation for the entire world.
No longer would the old-and-comfortable be enough. God’s people were being called to perceive “a new thing.”
Through the prophet, God urges the people:
Can you not see this new thing? I will make a way where it seems like there is no way.
You think you see desert? I will send water rushing through that desert, and you won’t be able to mistake it for anything else.
For the people of Israel, God was calling them to a completely new understanding of who they were to be.
Instead of a tribal folk possessing an insular understanding of chosenness, God was calling them to move beyond their internal and external borders so that they could be a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6 and 60:3).
The people of Israel were being called to embody the all-encompassing, inclusive love of God toward whom all the people of the world would stream (2:2-4 and 56:3-8).
Isaiah’s words must have been a jolt to how the people of Israel saw themselves.
And I think our own understanding of who we are as people of the Way of Christ is being challenged anew.
We are experiencing a lessening of the coronavirus pandemic in our local communities – but communities around the world still suffer a great deal of illness and death.
We’ve “gone virtual” out of necessity, and developed “Zoom fatigue.”
We’ve gathered for in-person worship again, but wear masks so we can keep our children and other vulnerable folks safe and healthy.
It all still feels and looks different … and strange.
But in the midst of it all, God’s Spirit still swirls, doing a new thing.
Can’t you perceive it?
And God declares:
I am making a way where it seems to you there is no way.
As people of Christ’s Church, what new thing from God is appearing before us and amongst us?
May we have the courage, the discernment, and the vision to see God’s way unfold in our very midst.