“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? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals 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, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise (Isaiah 43:18-21).”
Lent is a season for renewal. It is a season for new life. That’s important to remember. It’s easy for Lent to become weighty and burdensome. After all, we are moving along with our Lord toward the cross; we’re reflecting on the ‘sin that so easily entangles’ and acknowledging our own prodigal ways. We are considering the unspeakable cost to God of our redemption, purchased at the cross. We are reflecting on the very real cost of Christian discipleship. Those are all ‘heavy’ reflections; in many ways, it might be easier to hop over Lent and head straight to Easter. Chocolate Easter eggs instead of a cross, anyone?
So it’s a good time to rehearse that Lent is about renewal. Isaiah gave beautiful expression to the renewal that is at the heart of Lent when he announced the Word of the Lord: “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Please be clear to note what this promise is not. It is not a declaration that anything new is better than anything old (toss out last year’s songs, it’s time for a new ones…). Isaiah’s promise is not a judgment against traditions (let’s toss out communion, we don’t need it any longer). But the Word of the Lord through Isaiah is the promise that God is acting—and God will continue to act—in such a way as to bring about God’s good, creative purposes on earth. God is acting in such a way that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage. (Notice in the words above that the creation itself benefits from the new thing that God is doing.) Even if every news story in every corner of the earth declares that we are in a state of decay, God is bringing about something new, life-giving and beautiful.
We might say that all of this is just wishful thinking, except for this: The death and resurrection of Jesus have, once and for all, unlocked the prison doors that hold us and the world in bondage. We who are Christians never look at the cross by itself. We look at the cross and the resurrection. Out of the horrific darkness and hideous despair of the cross, God has brought about the new thing: resurrection. And because our crucified Lord is raised from the dead, because of this great sign of renewal, we may have every confidence that Isaiah had it exactly right! God is doing something new!
Even now as you read these words, God is calling and empowering you to new steps of freedom, new steps of love, new steps of creativity. The old ruts and ravines in which you feel entrenched do not have dictatorial power over you (though it may feel as though they do). God is working even now to bring about novelty in your life and in all creation.
Prayer: “Even now, Lord, help me to surrender to your renewing power, help your church to be surrendered to your renewing power, and help us to be your agents of renewal in the world.”