Daily Devotion 18 November 2020

Create a peaceful space to pause, and allow yourself to feel God’s presence alongside you, as near to you as your own breath. In following the reflection below, as a church we will draw closer to God and to one another as we grow in faith and deepen our sense of belonging to God.

Isaiah 43: 15-21 ‘I am about to do a New Thing’

15 I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King. 16 Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, 17 who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: 18 Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 19 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. 20 The wild animals will honour me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21 the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.

As I write this, we are coming to the end of our second ‘lockdown’, and hopefully the end of the second spike in the pandemic. The recent advances made with vaccines hold out hope for us all. Soon it will be a New Year and – for many – a new start. The words of Isaiah above seemed a fitting reminder that this is something that we are not doing on our own. God’s creativity did not finish eons ago. It can be heard with the cry of every new-born baby; it can be seen in every work of imagination – whether artistic or scientific; it can be experienced in every act of love and compassion. Of course, you could read Isaiah’s words in v. 18 as a rebuke for reflecting on the past. I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to look back, and it’s healthy to remember the past. However, running throughout scripture, from prophets like Isaiah through to the Book of Revelation, the message is: “Behold, I make all things new!”

It’s only natural for us to fear change, but the Church has too often tended to err towards maintaining the status quo. I was reading the other day, for example, how, when the Charleston dance arrived in Britain from the USA in 1925 not all Christians approved. The Vicar of St Aidan’s in Bristol, Rev E. W. Walters, famously thumped his pulpit and declared, “Any lover of the beautiful will die rather than be associated with the Charleston. It is neurotic! It is rotten! It stinks! Phew, open the windows!” 1. Yes, we can smile, but it’s easy to be despondent and negative about the future. This is not the message that Isaiah is giving us, however!

We must not miss the opportunities that are before us. It remains for us to see the effects of the pandemic, which is perhaps the best example of the many challenges facing the Church today, as opportunities for God’s Spirit to lead us in new and exciting directions in worship, ministry and mission. I believe that that means celebrating what is the best of the new and of the old – and if you’re not convinced, reflect on Matthew 13:52, and look how many times in the Gospels Jesus says “Do not be afraid”. Even in uncertain times such as these, therefore, we need not fear.

Prayer:

Loving God, you know how anxious we are of the future. Help us to realise that the Church to which we belong is the body of your dear Son, and that the gates of hell will not prevail against her. Keep us faithful to the Gospel; gives us joy in our hearts and the faith to trust in your unfailing love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reflection & Prayer © 2020 Barrie Tabraham.
Image © 2020 Paul Tabraham.
1. https://www.dancing-times.co.uk/how-the-charleston-changed-the-world.

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