Summary: Some of us are just not observant and do not see what God is doing. We let fear paralyze us, we do not see what an international church means, and we need to bear a testimony of excitement about all that God is doing in this church.
Many of you know that I recently spent a week in Kentucky and Indiana doing a family history search. My companion for that week in archives rooms and on cemetery grounds was my younger brother, who is a professor at Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Texas. We planned for that particular week, as he would be finished inflicting final exams on his students, and I would be equally finished inflicting Wednesday Bible studies on the good folks of a Silver Spring church. We talked for a while about starting on Sunday evening and continuing through the following Sunday. But as I looked at the calendar more closely, I saw that that date, Sunday a week ago, was his fortieth wedding anniversary. I said, “You do not want to be away with your brother on your fortieth wedding anniversary. That is a recipe for disaster. Go home before Sunday!” And so he did.
Bob tells me that when he got home, his wife greeted him by taking him to the room he uses as an office, and there showed him her anniversary gifts – a high-definition television, a new computer desk, and fresh paint. Good stuff; I hope he did something better than take her a 99-cent card from the discount! But here’s the point: he entered that room, and without having to be prompted at all, he saw every new thing. To him it was obvious and clear. He saw it right away. That’s my little brother. The one who literally stumbled over the right gravestones in our searches, who effortlessly found what we were looking for, and who instantly spotted his wife’s new gifts. He readily sees what is there.
I, on the other hand, am justifiably accused of being less than observant. Had that been me, the conversation would have been something like this – She: “Do you notice anything different in here?” I: “Uh, didn’t that chair used to be over here?” She: “Look over in that corner”. I: “Uh, did you straighten up my papers?” I would not have seen it. It would have had to be in the original carton with a red sale tag on it before I would have seen it. I am just not a particularly observant person. I look at those Washington Post magazine photographs every week, the ones where they tell you there are twelve differences between the original and the retouched versions, and I can never find more than three or four at the most. My wife puts on a new blouse, and I say precisely nothing about it. It may be new, but I don’t perceive it. It may be right in my face, but I don’t get it. I am just not observant. In fact, only this moment did I notice that most of my preaching platform is gone out from under my feet!
And so it is with God and God’s people. God is at work, doing a new thing, and we don’t see it. God is at work, making things happen that have never happened before, and we don’t perceive it, we don’t get it. Our creator, who makes all things new; our redeemer, in whom we are ew creations; our indwelling Holy Spirit, who brings new life – the prophet of the Exile cries out, on God’s behalf, “I am about to do 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.” Responding to the dilemma of the people of Judah, caught in Exile in Babylon, wondering if they would ever get to go home again, the prophet insists that if they would just open their eyes and look, God is doing a new thing. God is already at work. Don’t you see it? Don’t you get it? Wake up! God is making a way to go home.
So it was with God’s people in the eighth century before Christ, in Babylon. So it is with God’s people in the twenty-first century after Christ, in Gaithersburg. God is at work. Do you see it? God is making a way for us. “I am about to do 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.”
Why do we not see God’s new thing? Maybe we do not see what God is doing because we are afraid about change. I said, “afraid about change.” I didn’t say that we are afraid of change. We are, but more broadly, we are afraid about change. I mean that we are afraid not to change, but we are equally afraid that change is coming. We are afraid that if we do not change, we will miss out. But we are also afraid that if we change too much, we will fall off the right path. We are afraid about change.