Sermon – Lent 5 – April 7, 2019
Isaiah 43:16-21 ‘A New Thing’
CT: Through the cross of Jesus God did a truly new thing; Jesus has formed us into His people; the Church.
Intro: We talk about a new year, a new car, or a new idea, but resolutions fail, cars rust, ideas fade, and we’re left with same old all over again. Solomon wrote “There is nothing new under the sun.” But then God, through the prophet Isaiah said, “Heads up! Take notice, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” When God says He’s doing a new thing, we should sit up and take notice, after all, He created all things out of nothing. Think about Genesis 1; everything new!
New Exit: Isaiah spoke of a new exodus for God’s people—out of slavery, but that’s been done before! Except this time they’re not in Egypt; now they’re in Babylon with and a vast desert between them and what used to be home. How could they perceive of such a thing? When someone is at their lowest and depression closes in, it’s impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s like the lyrics for Kim Stockwood’s song, ’12 Years Old’; “my dog just died, my bike got stole.” #worstdayever! When things are life shattering and overwhelming, it’s hard to perceive of God doing anything new for me.
A new exodus seemed impossible for those enslaved in Babylon. Yet God had already chosen King Cyrus of Persia to change the centre of power over the nations, opening a door for their return. But then using a foreign king is not so new either; God used King Nebuchadnezzar as His servant to punish His people and take them into exile. And they were returning to their old home, newly renovated—destroyed—lying in rubble. This is nothing like the 1st time they entered the land under Joshua, but a 1M years can change a country’s looks. Nothing new in this, so why does God say, “Behold, I am doing a new thing!”
New Thing: It’s not that God’s actions in the past should be forgotten, or that the new Exodus out of Babylon was trivial or meaningless; God’s actions in every generation are important and purposeful. Isaiah’s words instruct the people—and us—to consider a still more glorious future. This going home may seem more like the repeat of an old idea, but it’s a return to God’s plan; to One who would remove our separation with God, forgive our sins, and make a way and an eternal home for you and me. Yes, there would be a miracle so marvellous as to eclipse all the former things. The promise of Christmas! We not only have the meaning of Jesus’ birth, but we also have the joy of what His death and resurrection has done for us, and that He’s doing something new in you and me now and will bring it to completion on the Last Day. And so yes, there is joy in Lent, even if all the music is in a minor key! Further on in Isaiah 43, God notes that His people have continued to weary Him with their iniquities, but says, “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
Eclipse: God taking on human flesh, living for us, and then giving His life for ours on the cross was inconceivable to the Jewish people, even to many people today. This is so new it becomes a stumbling block to believing, but to Paul, it’s above all things. He was proud of his nationality—a Hebrew of Hebrews; his pursuit of the law—a Pharisee, blameless under its self proclaimed righteousness; and his energy, look how he persecuted the church, but whatever gain, no matter how important they might have seemed on a worldly scale, he counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Paul looked at his life and said: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Is that where Christ is in your life? As the praise song goes, “Is He your all in all?”
Cross: In the parable in our Gospel lesson the vineyard owner does an inconceivable thing. Listening to the parable, we almost want to interrupt and say, “Don’t do it! You know what these people are like.” Humanity is not any better; any kinder, but what’s new is this is God’s beloved Son: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Jesus, rejected by the official party line of God’s own people, has become the cornerstone. By His suffering, death, and resurrection, God is forming His people; forming you! A people gathered not by the Law or traditions that we so easily corrupt and fail at, but by God’s gift of faith.
Church New: Jesus told His disciples that He would build His Church on Peter’s confession that He is the Christ, “and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (cf Mattew 16:18) This is the new thing that trumps all evil; the cross is God’s crowning victory that brings to you and me newness of life—the forgiveness of all of our sins, the gift of faith, the power of the Holy Spirit to live new every day. This is what is new: we are the new people of God, chosen and built up on the chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ. In the waters of your Baptism God declares that He is doing a new thing. You are given a righteousness that is not your own; a righteousness that depends on faith; faith that conveys on you the power of Jesus’ resurrection. This is not a veneer on top of the old. In 2nd Corinthians Paul boldly speaks of God’s work: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
What’s new is that you and I are brought to share or have fellowship in Christ’s suffering; that is in His intense care and love for others. And that’s never easy and impossible for the old me. The old me can walk away from those in need; those who don’t believe or know of God’s grace are lost in a fog of unbelief, but the new me is conflicted, wrestling with the old to follow Jesus, because He is actively pursuing me; working in me. Thus God is forming for Himself a people, His Church, dependent on faith in Jesus Christ. And that’s you and me; that we might declare “the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)