(RCL C) Isaiah 43: 16-21
The great journey of Lent once again makes a final turn into the home stretch. The Altar Guild will be preparing the Palms for us for the great procession next Sunday and the layreaders beginning to practice their parts in the dramatic reading of Luke’s Passion. Hospitality team beginning to think about the annual Maundy Thursday service of the Holy Communion shared around the Table in the Parish Hall, and the potluck supper we will have afterwards together in a memorial of the Upper Room. The Choir beginning to rehearse the Bach Passion Chorales for Good Friday afternoon.
All that to say, “Holy Week” just ahead. And certainly as we pause this morning, the haunting reading from St. John in the twelfth chapter. What that might have felt like for the disciples, as they watch this stunning, tender and intimate scene as Mary anoints Jesus with this costly aromatic oil. “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.” That’s what we would call a dark mood.
And yet, underneath it all, rumbling along, this word from Isaiah. “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing.”
Take a deep breath, people. Lean forward. Get ready for what’s coming. Not that you can possibly have any idea. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, saith the Lord, nor my ways your ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
This whole long story. From that first day, when the Lord walked with Adam in the Garden in the cool of the evening. From the Word to Abraham. From the Covenant at Sinai and the Grand Procession through the Wilderness to the Land of Promise. All streams converging to this one moment. And we’re almost there now.
For as rain and snow fall from the heavens and return not again, but water the earth, bringing forth life and giving growth, seed for sowing and bread for eating, so is my Word that goes forth from my mouth. It shall not return to me empty, but it will accomplish that which I have purposed, and prosper in that for which I sent it.
Do not remember the former things. I am about to do a new thing.
On the calendar we do this every year, every spring, every Lent. Like clockwork. But in the unfolding of the story of our lives, this is the only time. This is the only time there is. The past isn’t anywhere. The firing of neurons in the electric chemistry of the brain. This Lent the only Lent there is. This word of the Prophet Isaiah not something that exists in the past. Because nothing exists in the past. It is present, spoken directly to us, into our lives. I am about to do a new thing.
And what new thing is there that he can do, in our lives? Yours and mine. What new thing needs to be done? In our personal lives? In our families? In the life of this Church, this neighborhood? For any and all of us. Take a deep breath. Lean forward. Get ready for what’s coming. For who is coming.
The Bread we eat this morning together, the Cup we drink. Just a taste, a hint, and then it is gone. Taken in, received, absorbed. That he might dwell in us, and we in him.
We can already guess what New Thing would happen on Easter Sunday. The suspense of Holy Week is already framed in our mind, and the kids will be coloring their Easter Eggs on Holy Saturday afternoon, as every year. We know what happened then, even if it continues after two thousand years to be hard for us to understand and to explain. Resurrection. The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now.
But what will his Resurrection be, in us? The Jesus who died for us, long ago and far away. What New Thing will he have for us, will he be for us? Here and now. What blessing, what hope?
I am about to do a new thing.
Don’t discount this possibility. Here and now. Don’t underestimate what might happen. Here and now. Where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. In your life. In my life. In our life together. In this Church, in our neighborhoods, in the wide world. Don’t discount this possibility. Don’t underestimate what might happen. Here and now.
Take a deep breath, people. The message whispered into our ears, from before time and forever. Lean forward. Get ready. Hear him as he whispers this in our ear. I am about to do something new.