theolog cabin

Hosted by semfem, this is a warm, cozy place to curl up and ponder theological matters.

Monday, February 27, 2006

February 23, 2003 (Epiphany 7B)

[Preached at First Lutheran Church, Vancouver, BC]
Isaiah 43:18-25 (primary text)
Psalm 41
2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Mark 2:1-12

Click the time link below for the full sermon. (It was a poem-like experiment!)

Forget what happened before, don’t dwell on it.
Surprise! Watch! I am doing something new, don’t you see it emerging?
I will make a path out of your desolation and water in your desert.
Creation will honor me, jackals and ostriches,
because out of disorder I give life, water out of dryness,
to refresh my people, the people I created to celebrate what I do.
Yet you ignored me, you saw no point in following my ways!
You starved our relationship, you forgot who I was,
I didn’t ask anything impossible of you.
You couldn’t even be bothered with remembering me.
Instead you heaped your problems on me, your sins put you into debt.
But I am the one who will forget all these things because of who I am.
I will wipe away what is in the past and stay with you forever.


Forget what happened before, don’t dwell on it.
“do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old”--
does God really mean it?
does God really mean, “forget that my Spirit brooded over the waters of creation”?
“Forget my rainbow in the sky after I dried the earth”?
“forget my covenant that came to Abraham and Sarah through strangers”?
“forget how I led you out of Egypt through towering walls of water”?
“forget the anointing of the shepherd’s son David to rule my people”?
“forget the prophets who opened their mouths for my Word to come out of”?
“forget my promises to you”?
“forget what I have done to make you my people”?
“forget who you are”?
Can we really forget? Completely, utterly, forget without hesitation?
Forget on purpose? Make ourselves forget? Is it okay to forget?
Not forgetting the grocery list or the thank you card or the council meeting,
but forgetting things that define who we are.
Forgetting the Apostle’s Creed or the Words of Institution,
forgetting that Luther preached faith, not works,
forgetting where we were born, or who our parents were,
forgetting that we are baptized, forgetting we are fed at the table,
forgetting the times God whispers softly in our ear,
or forgetting that we as a people have experienced loss and grief.
How can God want us to forget these things that shape us, form us, make us who we are?

If our very being bears witness to these things and remembers them,
but we refuse to move forward,
how can we see the new things that are in front of us?
If we cling to promises that have failed us,
promised happiness, a promised job, promised health, promised recognition, promised love,
if our hearts are filled with anger or tears, we cannot see what God does quietly in a corner.
If we frantically try to regain something, or fulfill what was expected of us,
we cannot become what we are meant to be in the days to come.
If we are enslaved to self-reliance and self-sufficiency,
if we rely on power and force and glory to bring results,
we cannot anticipate God’s future, or see it already springing up around us.

Surprise! Watch! I am doing something new, don’t you see it emerging?
The Hebrew word used here means “Behold, me!”
Surprise! Look out! Pay attention! Check it out!
Lift up your head, lift up your heart, wipe your eyes and SEE!
I am overflowing with excitement about what I’m doing for you right now!
Can’t you see it springing up like a seed sprouting in your gravel path?
Behold, I do a new thing!
I plant a new life, I sing a new song, I knit a new people!
I whisper a new word, I push forth a new breath, I leap with a new dance!
I light a new flame, I touch a new heart, I bear a new child!
Because of promises kept, and in spite of promises unkept,
You can lift your eyes and see this new thing I am doing in your presence.

I will make a path out of your desolation and water in your desert.
Paths are made for walking, and so we can only walk through desolation,
God will not lift us out of it or away from it.
Because we are in it, we can see the new thing that springs forth,
the road that emerges from the wilderness,
the water that springs up from the barren and dusty rock,
that surprises us when we behold it.
The sandstorms and the thick dust of the past will not blind us forever.

Once I traveled to a salty desert, thick with blinding, stinging white salt instead of sand.
No trees. No plants. No shrubs. No buildings. No rocks. No people.
Truly desolate.
Yet the intense quiet was overpowering,
You could do nothing but remove your shoes and socks
and walk reverently in the salty roughness,
listening for a voice,
and finally hearing the wind racing over the crystals,
which all sang with remembered vibrations
and picked up and stung whatever happened to be standing there.
Filled with voices and singing the air whipped by,
signs of life in a corner of death.

Creation will honor me, jackals and ostriches,
because out of disorder I give life, water out of dryness,
to refresh my people, the people I created to celebrate what I do.

Jackals, dragons, dodos, ostriches,
camels, horses, fish, orangutans,
bacteria, starlings, cockroaches, parrots,
scorpions, sea horses, geoducks, turtles,
everything that relies on water out of dusty earth,
everything that relies on life out of dust that enfolds us and dust that we become in death,
everything that springs forth out of earthen vessels,
everything that leapt into being when God breathed,
all these and more honor the one who gives life at the right time,
the one who calls attention to the new thing now in progress.
A new creation is now arising out of the dust of the desert.
God molds a new people out of what had surrounded us and blinded us.

Yet you ignored me, you saw no point in following my ways!
You starved our relationship, you forgot who I was,
I didn’t ask anything impossible of you.
You couldn’t even be bothered with remembering me.

We are not used to burnt offerings and sheep and sacrificing animals,
but for Israel they were a way of feeding the entire nation in God’s name,
and nurturing their relationship with God.
How can we behold the new thing God does
if we do not answer the invitation to come and see?
How can we see the path God raises up
if we refuse to look down and blink to clear our eyes?

Instead you heaped your problems on me, your sins put you into debt.
When God is ready to leap for joy because of the new thing that is beginning,
we insist on living in a world that is passing away,
we cling to a past that we are enslaved to.
With a burned offering our sins would rise up like smoke,
be borne away by the wind and forgotten.
But instead these sins, this way of being,
hangs heavy around our shoulders.
Death, holocaust, separation, carelessness for life,
the sins of ourselves, our mothers and fathers, our ancestors, our nation, our society,
taste bitter in our mouths and follow us wherever we go.

But I am the one who will forget all these things because of who I am.
We all know the phrase, “forgive and forget.”
The two do not always go together.
We know God forgives, we hear it week after week, Sunday after Sunday,
but to think of God forgetting is both frightening and freeing.
We were created, knit, and gathered as God’s people,
but even God is willing to forget this
because the new thing that springs forth is more powerful,
more freeing, more intoxicating,
more sweeping, more embracing
than anything ever done before.
Why do we cling to forgotten promises?
Why do we walk in the ways of our ancestors
even if their paths go nowhere?
When we struggle through the desert,
what do we do if we can’t see the water that springs up from the rock?
Even if we cannot see it, it will still be there,
even if we cannot set aside our old patterns of behavior,
God will forget for us, and in time give us new life.

I will wipe away what is in the past and stay with you forever.
Our pasts give us strength, they form us, they identify us,
but even more strongly, we are identified as people of God.
Churchgoers or not, believers or not, cradle Lutherans or not, seekers or not,
questioning, doubting, turning away, returning,
looking for hope, for comfort, for inspiration, for healing,
stronger than family, nationality, ethnicity, category, occupation,
God is forming us anew into a people of praise,
a people of need, a people of joy, a people of sadness,
a people of anticipation, a people of wholeness,
a new thing.
Can you not see it among us already?