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Do You Not Perceive It?

Isaiah 43:16-21 and The End and the Beginning by Wislawa Szymborska, Translated by Joanna Trzeciak

Sunday April 3rd, 2022

By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche

It’s wonderful to be back with you this week. Thank you Jackie for sharing a word with us last Sunday. I loved that I could still hear it, even though I wasn’t here. We are privileged to have all that we do to stay connected to one another in this time. Thank you for being here however you are connecting this morning and I hope that you hear whatever it is that you need today. Before we begin, I invite you to take a deep breath. Breathe in love and breathe out stress. Breathe in peace and breathe out worry. I invite you to join me in a spirit of prayer.

Gracious God, may the words of our mouths and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

“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.”

I am about to do a new thing. That’s what God is up to according to the Prophet Isaiah, with that people, in that place, in that time. And maybe here now in this time too?

For those of you paying attention, we are in the final stretch of our Lenten series on Journeying Into New Stories and it has been such a gift to hear your stories in response to the stories we have shared as leaders in both the 9 a.m. service and this one. The story Jackie put before us last week was about knowing our own truth in our bones and claiming it so we can each come home to ourselves and so we can let go of fake stories, let go of needing to do what is expected, knowing that we are not at home, when we are trapped and stuck. And it made me think about how it is often only when life forces us beyond our familiars that we are able to know and live into our own truths, living into our own true stories for our lives. It’s often only when we are compelled, truly beyond anything that we would have chosen or encountered before that we can find our true selves and our true stories and live them fully, brightly, beautifully.

And today we ask: what if God is more able to activate and catalyze new things in our lives when we are lost or wandering in new territory, when we are out beyond what is comfortable?

The prophet Isaiah says, “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?”

But for me the answer right now is often, no I don’t, that’s too hard. I confess for me that it has been difficult to perceive the new things springing forth right now. It’s been hard to know what God is up to. There is simply too much wrong and too much that demands our immediate attention, too much shifting before us, too much that is asking something from us, that it can be hard to see clearly.

I feel like I get a grip on what the new reality will be, on what the new landscape will hold, and then, boom, things shift again. Another fire comes close, another war unfolds, the news of our Heather moving on, I guess I have been living with the fantasy that things will settle down, eventually. It’s all been stirred up for a while, our collective anxiety raised, as we look around for what is next and it’s been hard for me at least to know the right way to go, to see what God wants me to see. Where do we put our energy when it is needed everywhere? It’s overwhelming and there’s no way any one of us can heal the hurts on our own.

I have let myself turn off the news and I try to keep up without taking in all of the hurt- it is heartbreaking to watch from a distance, feeling mostly helpless. “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

Actually God, it’s hard to do that right now…

Of course it was a different time, but what we share with the Jewish people is that like them, there are some of us who are wandering in a wilderness, wondering what is next and daring to hang on in the desert of uncertainty, seeking a way forward and a way to be quenched, with so many unanswered questions, tethered to one another in covenant, but unmoored internally by all of the trauma.

And even like some of them, some of us here in Boulder County and around the globe, have lost it all and also lost a sense of where God might be.

As Kristin Johnston Largen writes of the Jewish people to whom Isaiah spoke, “They had lost everything: their land, their homes, their livelihood, their families, and to some extent they felt they had lost God as well… Where was God in the midst of this great disaster? Why had God allowed this to happen? What kind of a future did they have?”

And for many people in the world right now, for many of us, these questions are being asked right now too.

Where is God in the midst of these great disasters? Why must we endure more war? Why did more fire come, on the very week we marked the anniversary of a gun violence massacre? What kind of future do we have? What story are we living right now as a church and as human beings on planet earth?

I came across this poem recently that you heard Phillip read, called The End and the Beginning about what happens after war.

The poem says:

After every war

someone has to clean up…

Someone has to push the rubble

to the side of the road…

Someone has to get mired

in scum and ashes…

Someone has to drag in a girder

to prop up a wall…

Someone, broom in hand,

still recalls the way it was.

Someone else listens…

From out of the bushes

sometimes someone still unearths

rusted-out arguments…

After every war

someone has to clean up…

But that’s not all, here’s part of it too, there also has to be someone

stretched out with a blade of grass in her mouth gazing at the clouds.

That struck me. What if that is part of our call right now? Amid war and economic uncertainty, with threats looming that might not cease, with shortages in housing and hope, what if we can’t forget to stretch out in the grass and gaze at the clouds? What if it’s just as important for us to notice the beauty, to point out the green blades pushing through, to pause long enough to laugh? What if part of the new thing God is doing right now, is forcing us to see goodness all around? And here’s the other question I have: what if sometimes God shows up, what if the thing we need arrives or is already here, but it’s not what we expected so we are missing it? So we aren’t seeing it or perceiving it?

What I notice upon reading the Prophet Isaiah right now in this time is that before we read of new things springing forth we read this, “Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old…”

So I wonder if this is another way of saying that part of how any of us will see the new thing that is happening in our lives or in the lives of those around us or in the life of our faith community, is to let go of us or them or this, needing to look like the thing we expected, or like the thing that is comfortable or like the familiar or the old thing, the former thing, the thing that was?

Wow, that’s hard. Our brains often only recognize that which we already have mental maps for. But what if part of how we follow the Spirit’s lure is to be open to the signs and the experiences feeling new and different? And what if part of how we can do that is to stretch out with a blade of grass in your mouth and gazing at the clouds?

What if we can miss what God is up to, what if we can miss where the Spirit is trying to bring us, what if we miss how Love is working right here and now when our gaze is only toward what was, what we knew, what is known, what is wrong? What if there is beauty before us and we are missing it? What if there are new things springing forth and we are too worried about what is wrong that we are missing what is beautiful and bright, right here?

The prophet Isaiah says, “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?” It might be hard, but it’s not a matter of whether God is doing new things in our lives, in our church, in our world, it’s a matter of whether we are seeing them, perceiving them, responding to them.

Grab a broom yes, but don’t forget to gaze at the clouds, don’t forget to pause chores and play with the kids, leave emails unreturned to hear the birdsongs, let the laundry pile up to linger in conversation, leave the list of unimportant things to be in the moment, just for a time, or we will all miss it, we will miss what God is up to…

God is doing a new thing! God is writing new stories within us and around us, do you not perceive it? May it be so. Amen.

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