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When God Does A New Thing

Deformed, Disfigured, And Despised
First Lesson Sermons For Lent/Easter Cycle C
The woman whose heart is broken because her husband cheated on her cannot get past that experience and has vowed never to love again. Two brothers have not spoken to each other in years because a business they built together failed due to the skimming of profits by the older brother. The young man who has not visited or spoken to his mother and father in ten years because of an abusive childhood cannot bring himself to forget the past, forgive his parents, and move on with his life. These are just a few examples of people who cannot forget the former things and thus glimpse the new things God is doing in their lives.

The prophet Isaiah urges the people to forget the former things and behold the new ways that God is changing and renewing their lives for a greater good. But in order for them to see the new things that God is doing, they must open their eyes and see God. As human beings there are so many memories and experiences thwarting our movement into a fresh encounter with God. The windows of our hearts and souls are clouded with memories of the pain, hurt, and betrayal we have experienced over the years. But God wants to change all of that. God says, "Behold, I am doing a new thing. Will you not perceive it? Will you not know it? It springs up right before your very eyes. It is right before you. Can you not see it?" What new thing is God then doing in our lives?

God proclaims through the prophet, "I am making a way in the desert."

The desert is a lonely place where one can easily lose direction because of heat, fatigue, and disorientation. Even the most experienced desert guides have difficulty finding their way in the desert because of the terrain and the way desert conditions can easily discomfit and stymie the traveler. But God says, "I will make a way for you in the desert and you shall know the path I make for you and the path will lead you to fertile ground."

There also is the spiritual desert. A place of loneliness, misdirection, and confusion. Some people spend their lives wandering in the spiritual deserts of despair, disillusionment, and disappointment. Spiritual deserts can be encountered in our spiritual exile from God, where we feel estranged from the Lord and those who love us. We have lost our way. We are desert wanderers who have lost our focus and direction. We cannot find our way back to fertile ground.

Perhaps it is the desert of personal affliction and addiction. The alcoholic finds himself on the fallow ground of loneliness and denial where he cannot bring himself to admit that he is alcoholic. The same is true of the drug addict. He is lost in the vortex of drug abuse and finds his life spiraling out of control into the abyss of self destruction.

There are many people who have afflictions and addictions who have lost their way to God and cannot find their way back into God's presence.

The spiritual deserts are filled today with people who carry the baggage of their past and are wandering aimlessly on the hot sands of hopelessness and despair. The way out they have chosen for themselves is just a mirage. The only way out is by turning to God and away from those realities that keep them in the desert. The only way out is by taking God's hand and allowing God to lead them out. This involves admitting the problem, submitting to God, and committing to making positive personal transformation. God says, "I will make a way for you in the desert so you may find your way out of the desert."

God is also doing a new thing by making streams in the wasteland.

The wasteland is without fresh water. It is the place where dreams waste away. Hope and faith in God waste away. The great T. S. Eliot immortalized the wasteland with his poem:

Where is there an end of it ... the soundless wailing, the silent withering of autumn flowers ... where is there an end of the drifting wreckage ... the prayer of the bone on the beach ... There is no end....

We live these days in spiritual wastelands where people have become so tainted and corrupt by the horrors and illusions of this age that they have lost all hope in God ever changing the present human condition. They resign themselves to eternal pessimism and have lost all belief in things ever getting better. They are permanent residents of spiritual wastelands. They are so steeped in the spiritual quagmires of the past that they cannot see God doing a new thing today. They live in wastelands where they waste away in body, mind, soul, and spirit. Their souls are arid. Their hearts have been dried out by the problems of society and living in general. Their minds have not been restored by the fresh waters of God's love, compassion, and mercy. They sit in their dry corners, parched offices, and barren boardrooms. They cower in their fallow and squalid places never understanding that God has made streams in the wasteland. If they would only look up and go to those fresh water places that God has created for their renewal, they would then see that God is doing a new thing in their midst.

This is also true of some churches which have become a kind of spiritual wasteland for our times. Some churches have lost much of their spiritual vitality and are suffering from spiritual dry rot. The church looks too much like the world and has sold its soul to the devil in an effort to imitate and accommodate the larger society. The same spiritual wasting away that we see in society and our Corinthian culture, we witness in the church where worship services are flat, dry, and vapid; where the singing and preaching are Geritol-tired, stale, perfunctory, and wooden, and the service is often devoid of the joy and enthusiasm that comes with genuine conversion to Christ. The church has also in many instances become a spiritual wasteland served by spiritual wastrels who have allowed the cynicism and problems of our post-modern secular culture to destroy and compromise their joy for Jesus. The sad irony is that certain sectors of the larger society have more faith in their institutions of power than the church has in Christ.

But God says, "I will make streams in the desert." The dry places shall become wet places. The old places shall become new places and the crooked places shall become straight places. That which has been eviscerated and evaporated of the streams of life shall be replenished and refurbished with the fresh, rushing waters of God's power and grace.

This is why God sent his son Jesus to this wasteland of ours -- to give us hope, joy, and spiritual prosperity. God looked out over the world and saw what a waste we had made of things and decided to send his son who would clean things up and set things right. Where there is hopelessness, powerlessness, and joylessness, God will renew with hope, power, and joy. That which has been deemed impossible for humankind will be possible for God. We need not waste away on our porches of despair, rocking in confusion and disillusionment because God is doing a new thing even if we do not perceive it.

God says, "The wild animals honor me, even the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland." If the wild animals can perceive and acknowledge what God is doing, why can't humankind? If the animals who do not have the intelligence of humankind can see what God is doing, why can't humankind?

God is doing a new thing all around us. God is breaking down strongholds, transforming dark places into light places, and making hardened hearts into soft and compassionate hearts. God is giving wealth to the impoverished, bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, hope to the hopeless, and faith to the faithless. God is doing a new thing everywhere. Tremendous advances in science and medicine have cured or halted many diseases that for years plagued and destroyed human communities. Walls that separate human communities are now being laid down and made into bridges. Those who were jailed unjustly are now heads of state. God is giving power to the powerless by setting the oppressed free. Everywhere we look we can see God doing a new thing, and if we look hard enough and discard the baggage and problems of the past that prevent us from seeing clearly, we can see clearly what God is doing.

Yes, problems still exist and man still faces his share of woe, but if the owls and jackals can see, why can't humankind see what God is doing? "Behold, I will do a new thing. Will you not perceive it? Behold I will do the impossible by making streams in the desert. I will give new life and new direction." The Father gives us something new in his son Jesus. Will we not perceive it and know what he can do in our lives? God is constantly doing new things through Christ who is the savior and liberator of the world. Deserts are made fertile. Crooked places are made straight and rough places are made plain. "Behold, I am doing a new thing!"
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