Bible Study for Monday February 25 for Worship March 17

Bible Study for Monday February 25 for Worship March 17

Isaiah 43: 16 Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters,
17 who brings forth chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
18 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing 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 beasts will honor 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 that they might declare my praise.

COMMENTARY

“I am doing a new thing,” says God! God is always doing new things. We are almost always lagging behind where God is moving in the world, and we need to run to catch up. The new thing God was up to in the time of Second Isaiah was bringing the Jewish captives in Babylon home to Israel. The military might of the Babylonians had been crushed, and God was going to do a new thing by making a way in the desert for his people to return to their homeland.

In the First Century God was doing a new thing in Jesus and the church. You have heard that it was said, “and eye for an eye, but I say to you love your enemies.” God was doing a new thing in Christ to show us the way to the Commonwealth of God.

Many Jews returned to this passage, when the Jewish homeland was reborn in Israel in 1948 after the devastation of the Holocaust. They especially paid attention to the rivers in the desert as new Israeli agriculture converted waste land into forest and wilderness into productive crop land as they made the desert bloom.

The question we must face in the church in the 21st Century is what new thing is God doing in our time in our world? Almost all churches are hemorrhaging membership. Church budgets have been stretched to the breaking point, and many congregations will be dissolving in the next twenty years. The new thing God may be doing is saying: “change or die.” Become faithful in following the way of Jesus, or your institutions will collapse. Something new is not necessarily good news for the institutional church. Learn to adapt and grow or die.

Phyllis Tickle in her book The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, seeks to document the tremendous cultural upheaval all around us, and how that is affecting the church. Her theory is that about every 500 years Western Culture experiences a massive displacement, and after about a 100 years of uncertainty and upheaval new cultural forms and new expressions of faith emerge on the other side. The last great upheaval according to Tickle was the Protestant Reformation. She claims that we have now entered into another great cultural upheaval, and we cannot even begin to predict in what form our social institutions especially the church will emerge from this cultural transformation.

In case anyone is not clear that we find ourselves in the midst of dramatic change think about these questions. Thirty years ago, who would have predicted most of us would be carrying around phones in our pockets and pocket books? Twenty years ago how many of us had heard of the internet? Ten years ago who would have imagined we would be surfing the internet on our phones? One month ago, who would have predicted a Papal resignation?

We live in the midst of change. If we refuse to recognize that change, and how that change is changing us, and the how that change is affecting the church, then we are dooming the church to irrelevance and eventual extinction. One of the changes that made the Protestant Reformation possible was a revolution in media — the printing press. Today once again we are experiencing a revolution in media brought about by the internet. How the changes in media will reshape the church we can only begin to see, how congregations choose to respond will determine their futures.

God is doing a new thing! Verse 18 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.” It always helps to know where we come from, how we are connected to our roots. Indeed, the Great Emergence, seems to be calling many congregations to renew their connections with ancient liturgies, symbols of faith and spiritual practices. There is a renewed interest, even a hunger, for ancient spiritual practices, meditation, prayer, chanting, prayer beads, but always adapted in new ways and new forms. God is doing a new thing!

The call to a re-visioning process at United Church is our opportunity to figure out what God is calling us to do and become in the Twenty-first Century. We need courage and faith to step into a planning process that will seek to discern what new thing God is doing among us.

LET ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT

1. Where all does God make a path?

2. What will happen to chariot and horse, army and warrior?

3. What is the reader asked to forget?

4. According to the Psalmist, what is God up to?

5. Where does God promise to “make a way.”

6. What will God send to the desert to make it more hospitable.

7. What is the purpose of God’s people?

LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US

1. How might God make a way through the sea?

2. What are some of the former things that are no longer useful?

3. How can nostalgia become destructive?

4. What new things have you experienced God doing within your life time?

5. What cultural changes you observe are most troubling?

6. What cultural changes you observe are most hopeful?

7. Are there changes going on around you, that you just can’t keep up with?

8. For you what would be like finding a river in the desert?

9. What do you find happening around you for which you would most like to give God praise?

Week of March 11 – March 17: Fifth Sunday of Lent – Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126 (UMH 847), Philippians 3:4b-14, John 12:1-8

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