“the former things have come to pass,
And new things I now declare;
Before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.
Sing to the Lord a new song”
Sometime I am going to count the number of times the word “new” (or its equivalent) is used in the Bible. In the two verses above from the 42nd Chapter of Isaiah, the word “new” is used twice. From the beginning of creation in Genesis to the “new heaven and new earth” described at the end of Revelation, it seems as if God has new possibilities in mind for us. Our Creator is the God of new starts and second chances. After all what is Christmas (“the Word became Flesh and lived among us”), Good Friday (“on seeing the manner of his death the centurion said, “Truly this man was God’s Son”), and Easter (speaks for Itself) all about. As we enter the Year of our Lord 2018, let us pause to dwell on our God who said in Isaiah “do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old; I am about to do A NEW THING:” (43:18-19)
Many of us for different reasons lament the state of the church. My deep concern is that we have lost touch with God’s mission. I use to say that we have lost a generation and a half of young people. Today I fear it is more like two generations in the mainline churches and their denominations. Many younger folks do not even know who Jesus is let alone care about him. We have a problem Houston! We can point fingers at the mega churches, liberals/conservatives, Sunday morning youth activities, a secular society all we want, and we are right in that it is all these things and more causing the church’s decline. Perhaps the cause of our malaise is not outside of our walls at all but inside us. Perhaps along with losing touch with God’s mission, we have allowed God’s church to lose its relevancy. If that is the case than people do find more satisfaction in their children’s soccer games, sleeping in or enjoying the Sunday Post, than sitting through another Sunday morning at St. Wherever.
It seems to me that many of us want the “former things” at our churches, and not “God’s new thing”. We may talk a good line but are looking backward while we talk! My remaining sister laments that at her Lutheran church, they are no longer singing the old hymns that mom and dad liked (old meaning 19th century American hymns). While I don’t know what is going on at her church, we must all look at our context and ask the question; “What does God want in the congregation in which we worship and are called to mission.” The answer to that question is different in my sister’s congregation, than in a Lutheran church in Baltimore than in St. Paul, Fulton. Nonetheless we are called to ask ourselves this and other questions!
Two brief thoughts as I look forward to 2018; the LEAD process is the right way for St. Paul Congregation to be open to God’s newness. And (this is important), now more than ever, pastor, people, leaders and youth need to work together, pray with one another, listen intently to one another, and above all love one another!
My sainted Seminary President John Tietjen was known to say that the church must speak the age-old Gospel of Jesus in the language of the children!