~ A NEW THING ~
“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?”
~Isaiah 43:18, 19a
Dear Members and Friends,
One disadvantage to writing an old-fashioned paper newsletter is that it throws off a person’s inner clock. It means trying to convey certain feelings on paper before you (the writer) have really gotten ready for them in real life. For example, you have to write about Thanksgiving well before Halloween, before the autumn turns its annual corner from bright yellows and oranges to somber grays and browns. Then you need to write about the extravagant joy of Christmas before you’ve even had a chance to truly sit with soberer Thanksgiving thoughts. Even today, as I write—having pushed the newsletter deadline to its allowable limit, and still days before Christmas—I’ve got to think and talk about a world I haven’t seen yet: the New Year, 2017. “Life comes at you fast,” the Nationwide Insurance ads claim. And as we look back over the days we’ve been given, or even just the 365 days of the year now ending, we would have to agree. Something new is always upon us. “Do you not perceive it?”
One problem with welcoming a new year is that it comes at a time when nothing feels new. The Christmas decorations look ragged and maudlin in January’s merciless light. Taking them down is a tiresome task. And not to knock a much-loved carol, but if Christmas takes place “in the deep midwinter” then Pittsburgh is planted in the deep Midwest—somewhere in Iowa. Winter hasn’t even gotten out of the gate at Christmastime. By New Year’s Day, winter’s iciest, coldest two and a half months are still ahead of you, with precious few holidays to break up their tedium. According to Snyder Family legend, my late-January birthday always has the worst weather of the year. You’ll know I’m another year older on the day you see a snowplow stuck in a snowdrift.
And yet, even amid all the sameness of things, we can sometimes feel the moments passing. Their constant rumble is like a subway train beneath the ground we’re standing on. If we stop to listen to the rhythm of our hours and days, if we pay attention to the sometimes-monotonous march of seconds and minutes, we’ll catch echoes of their footfalls drawing nearer, stomping past us, receding into the distance. When did that hair go gray on the head of the one you love? When did that wrinkle form on the familiar brow? Time passes, bestowing gifts richly with one hand and stealing them with the other.
In every season of life, there is a new thing that God is doing, if we will open our hearts and spirits to its unfolding. Whatever time it is in your life, whatever your age or occupation, the voice still calls out to you again from down the beach. “Follow me.” Or, as the God of Isaiah declares, “I am about to do a new thing… Do you not perceive it?” Sometime in this truly deep midwinter season—at an evening time yet to be determined—we are going to gather as a congregation to discuss the “new things” that we sense the Spirit doing in our midst and the directions they might lead us. Until then, I’d encourage you to ask yourself these two questions: What new thing am I being called to? What new thing is our church being called to? It is my joy and privilege to be making new discoveries with you.
In Christ’s Peace, ~Brian