Do you glory in the past or are you excited by the future?
When I was an ordinand, one of my tasks was to go and work on secondment with a vicar called Arthur in a parish in one of our larger conurbations in the Diocese, in a poor area, with a lot of social housing.
A part of his responsibilities was to conduct services during an interregnum at another parish. We went there together. It was a church building built in, possibly, the sixties or seventies, in a then new housing development, but which was looking pretty run down….the church was practically empty. Arthur told me afterwards that their problem was that they kept on talking about the ‘glory days’.
It seems that when the development was started, a large number of Christian families had moved into the new houses and they had built up a really dynamic church; lots of young parents; lots of children; lots of people who had not been involved with church before had become Christians; all very exciting.
But now the children had all left home and those young parents were in their sixties and seventies and the church had not kept up with the next generation and the generation after that.
The church was now empty and sad and they were having difficulty attracting a priest.
Isaiah speaks in our passage this morning about something similar. Isaiah speaks God’s words:
‘Thus says the Lord:…’
‘True’ (verse 16) ‘He is the God who made a way in the sea so that the children of Israel could pass through the Red Sea in their escape from Egypt’.
‘True’ (verse 17) ‘He is the God who made the chariots and the horses and warriors who were pursuing them, in their escape, he made them lie down so that they could not escape as the waters crashed down on them’.
But God says (verse 18) “don’t remember the former things; don’t consider the things of old” because “I am about to do a new thing, now it springs forth do you not perceive it?”
He is going to do things now which are just as wonderful as the things that he has done in the past; but they are going to be done in our lifetime in our lives. He is going to make ways in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Even the wild animals, the inhabitants of the wilderness, will honour him.
He is going to give drink to his chosen people, the people he formed for himself so that they might declare his praise.
As we approach our APCM, its easy for us to think ‘Oh its not like it used to be’. Its not like it was when we had a full time priest; when we had Percy Dodwell or Alec Knight. ‘They were such wonderful people. We had full services, wonderful Sunday Schools and Choirs and the vicar made constant visits’.
No, its not like it was. And God was working through those wonderful priests…..
But now God is doing a new thing. Can you not perceive it….?
Something which is just as amazing…as he did before, but just different.
Its exciting. Its starting.
The glory days are beginning again….
Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
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.
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,
the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Is 43:16–21). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.