Sunday, March 21, 2010

Forget it

I've been reading Isaiah 43 all week, even though I had pretty much decided to preach on the anointing story in John 12. I love all of these anointing stories; we read Luke's version at a Bible study on Saturday morning. The trouble with stories I love sometimes, though, is that I don't see the continuing ripples in them.

But enough about John....

I've been reading Isaiah 43 all week, as well, probably because of the phrase, "I will make a way in the wilderness." I was thinking about the desert, connecting the scripture to my trip to the desert last week, and that phrase about the wilderness kept coming into my mind, perhaps too obviously.

But last night, and today, as I read Isaiah 43, this is what I heard:

"Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old."

And this right after God reminds the people of how he saved them from the Egyptians through the Red Sea.

"Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old."

It seems that our faith is built on remembering. The Jewish people remember the Passover; their basic identity is formed by the story of how God saved them from slavery, how God set them apart. Each week we gather to hear the story of God in Christ, and to taste God's love, "The body of Christ, given for you."

But today, instead, we heard, "do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old." Today we were encouraged not to get out the photo albums and reminisce, but to close our eyes and imagine: God is about to do a new thing.

There are so many exhortations in the Bible about remembering. I don't think that God wants us to forget the forming stories, the stories that tell us who we are. I don't think that God wants us to forget the old photographs and the stories of courage and cowardice we find there. But perhaps sometimes when we spend too much time on the past, we forget that the past only serves to prepare us for the future, for the vision that God is creating, that is more than we can imagine.

A wandering Aramean was our father, a humble carpenter is our Lord, the wilderness is where we began, but in the end there will be the river of life, with its streams for the healing of the nations.

God is about to do a new thing. That's what Isaiah promises.

There will be streams in the desert.

Visiting my sister, we were mourning the rainfall. We wanted sunshine only during our brief stay. But my sister, with the perspective of one who actually lives in the desert, was rejoicing. "We've been in a 14 year drought," she told me. They know as only those who live with scarcity know, that water means life.

In the meantime, North Dakota is in a flood watch, reminding us that water can destroy as well as give life. It was water that drowned the Egyptians so long ago, when the Israelites escaped on dry land.

But do not remember the former things, God says. I am about to do a new thing.

Just for a little while, put away the photo albums, and don't think about your ancestors. Instead, close your eyes and imagine the future, God's future, a new thing. Enemies become friends. The lion lies down with the lamb. The dead are raised. Love wins. Waters bubbles up from deep wells, and waters comes down from the sky, and water flows from clear rivers.

Forget all those voices that tell you that the future has to be just like the past, that the things that have bound you will always hold you down, that you'll never change.

God is about to do a new thing.

8 comments:

Elaine Dent said...

Thanks for holding the tension between the good remembering and the remembering that can get us stuck and keep us from using our imaginations regarding God's future. Good words. Our congregation is celebrating its centennial year. There's lots of remembering and I keep reminding them that's there is lots of imagining too; God doesn't necessarily do things the same way.

Mrs. M said...

1) I really love it.
2) Have I asked you before (possibly dozens of times, I love this book) if you've read Bruggemann's Prophetic Imagination?

Marsha said...

hmmmm... not sure what happened to my comment.

The gist of which is that I love reading your writings and really think you should be published!

Mompriest said...

While in Arizona I read a book about water: something about there are two ways to die from water - thirst and drowning? something like that? anyway, water in the desert is a real issue and something to ponder - almost always too much or too little - never really just enough.

Sometimes life is like that - too much or too little.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

oh diane... you have no idea how much i needed to read those words... i have been resisting the photo albums... but, doubting the new thing to come... oh me of little faith!

驚訝 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lindy said...

I never thought of it like that before, as an invitation to imagination! Love that.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Yes to this quote: "Forget all those voices that tell you that the future has to be just like the past, that the things that have bound you will always hold you down, that you'll never change."

I have always thought that passage meant just that, that God does not want us to continue to be bound by the definitions and constraints of the past."

Wonderful post, Diane, as so often.