- Marjorie Suchocki
This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies— they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
- Isaiah 43.16-19b (The Message)
This passage from Isaiah should be heard and heeded – big time! - by the church in our day. In an era when our faith is in serious decline, we still tend toward “Business as usual,” clinging obstinately to rituals, traditions, and the way we have always done things, without regard to how our message comes across in contemporary culture.
To this tendency God says through Isaiah: “…don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.” In light of this passage I must conclude that we have neither reason nor justification for clinging to the past, because God has gone on ahead, ready to do new things, and enticing us toward an open and exciting future. Perhaps we can’t see it yet, but God can; so we need not fear, because God can be trusted.
So our mandate is simple and straightforward; out with the old and in with the new. It’s time for a wholesale recreation of this community we call church. Or is it? If we examine the passage from Isaiah as a whole, we find the situation a bit more complicated. The God who advises us to stop going over old history, takes care to remind us of all that has been done for us up until now. This God builds a road through the ocean, carves a path through pounding waves, and snuffs out armies like so many candles. If these saving acts sound familiar, it’s because they refer to the events of the Exodus; the parting of the Red Sea and the decimation of Pharaoh’s army.
So perhaps the past is not completely irrelevant; it seems to have some relationship with the new thing God wants to do. Perhaps Suchocki says it best. Tradition is like the crest of a wave, building on the strength of a past blessed by God’s presence, yet always pushing beyond itself toward the new things God is doing.
This dynamic relationship between past and future, old and new, traditional and contemporary applies as well to our re-visioning process here at Overland Park Christian, which we will celebrate on Sunday. We are not called to annihilate the old to make room for the new. Rather, we are called to build on the strength of our past, allowing it to undergird new ways of expression, new ways of reaching out to others in a world that is constantly changing.
When we look at the results of our visioning process on Sunday, we will see that they contain nothing wholly new; no radical departure from values that have guided us in the best of our past: a commitment to service in our larger community, to an open and welcoming invitation into our faith community, and to the affirmation of all God’s children, regardless of their stripe or color.
So what’s new? We are recommitting ourselves to these values, examining their boundaries to see if we have applied them broadly and effectively enough, and striving to offer them in a manner that will be inviting to a wider range of folks in our community. In short, we have committed to be intentional about letting God mold us into a church for this day, and for the days to come. I don’t know about you, but I for one find this exciting!