It’s that time in the life of the local church when things seem new. A new pastor often means a change in routines, scheduling, order, and more, instead of what has become familiar. Those new pastors bring new relationships and personalities to adjust to, and new names and faces to recognize in the community. Especially as United Methodists, this is a routine that we have lived through multiple times, and will continue to in the future. In the beginning of “new” we can often feel like we are lost in a wilderness, thrashing around in the underbrush until we reach a place of firm footing. For now though, what we are able to latch onto in that wilderness, is the faithfulness of God to provide for us.
“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 43:19
The Israelites are grumbling… again. It seems to be a continual litany (this might feel a bit familiar even today). Yet with patience – well, mostly – and a solid history of providing for God’s own people, this Isaiah text reminds them of who God is. God’s character, the things that they see God carry out, is what is to be recalled.
God is not asking the Israelites, nor us, to forget the history that brought them (us) to this place, but rather don’t dwell on it. This is about the things that God has done on this long journey that the Israelites have been on, both figuratively and literally, for generations, and God’s faithfulness to provide for the next leg of the journey. Every. Time. When they needed water, there was water. When they needed food, there was manna. When they needed to cross the sea to reach safety, there was dry land.
If we move farther in the chapter, we hear God reprimanding Israel for forgetting their God and turning to ungodly things, all of which grieved God greatly. Even some of their leaders didn’t take time to call on God, repent of their sins, give praise for God’s bounty, or seek God’s wisdom. And yet, God remains faithful.
This is not a scripture to guilt the peoples into God’s ways, but instead is a piece of a much larger story. A story which calls the people to remember what has been for its historical and faith significance. Yet, God calls them, and us, to know that with God a new definition of who we are, a new pathway, will become at least as, if not more, important to the story of God’s people, as that which has gone before.
So as we move into our time together, let us remember to repent of our sins, praise God, seek God’s wisdom and lift up in glory our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, together. For together, there are more to enfold each of us on this journey with grace, mercy and love as we do our best each day to carry out God’s will in Oakland and beyond, in the name of God our Provider, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit our Guide.
Be blessed, be a blessing, and take someone on the journey with you!