Sermon for Sunday, 13 September 2020
By Revd George Mwaura
I am making all things New
Isaiah 43: 19a
God of time and space, we thank you for gathering us here after such a long time.
As we fellowship together and wrestle with your word,
speak to us words of consolation, affirmation and love in Jesus’ name.
This morning, we could spend all the time we have here, and some, to talk about the experiences we’ve all had during the lockdown. Stories of courage, kindness, mercy and yes, even shame, as we saw on social media during the early days of the pandemic characterised by panic buying and hoarding, and later in the careless abandon and reckless behaviour of people refusing to take precautions. We all have such stories. Or, we could spend a few minutes and reflect on what God says through the prophet Isaiah this morning. And what does God say? He says:
See, I am doing a new thing!
This is what I would rather we focus on. The new church emerging out of covid-19. What kind of a church do we want it to be? Let me suggest that it must be a forgiving church, a compassionate church, a merciful church, a caring church. A church that will outlast the pandemic and be here in the centuries to come. But how do we build such a church from the ashes of yesterday?
We can only do this by being made anew into a people of God. For that, we must be prepared to sacrifice our egos and pride on the altar of human need, and wellbeing. We must be prepared to work together as a team, for the church of tomorrow demands a united new creature. But this new creature is not our work alone; no, no! This is initiated and orchestrated by God, but we must be willing to do our part and be changed.
We must be prepared to covenant that we will never, ever again allow ourselves to take that tranquilising drug so willingly. A drug that gave us a false sense of normality and wellbeing. For so long, we deluded ourselves that we were doing good and heading straight to heaven.
But how could it have been OK when the rich had been getting richer at the expense of everyone else?
How could it have been OK when refugees continued to perish on the seas and oceans on rickety, leaky boats as they attempted to reach Europe?
How could it have been ok when earth had been coughing and choking with the toxic waste and emissions from our excess living?
How could we have normalised this? How?
I am convinced that God is doing something new not just here in Milton Keynes but throughout the world and we, we stand at the gate of this renewal. So, pray with me, my dear brothers and sisters, that the Lord will touch each one of us with his Spirit and renew us to be the church that is needed for the twenty-first century. ‘But how can we get renewed, George?’ you ask me. Allow me quickly to suggest four ways of being renewed.
First, we must become a praying church
In the grip of the pandemic, offices, business and schools were shut and churches migrated online. Emergency declarations and sanctions were made globally. People lived and continue to live in a state of uncertainty and fear. The church worldwide has been left with one primary task – to pray. Now, this church must cry out to God for wisdom, plead for safety and protection, and beg for the sparks of revival so that it can be made new. The church must become a praying church Period. When it does, God will answer its prayers.
Second, for the church to be renewed, it must reach out to the community
The church has never been the beautiful and iconic buildings that rise above the skyline of most cities like this one of ours, oh no! Neither has the church been about the many programmes and projects it engages with, nah! The church is the people of God united by the salvation purchased by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen? We must strive for unity as the new church. We must pick up all those on the margins and carry them along with us as we get renewed. We must have a common vision with those we seek to serve.
Third, to be renewed as a church, we must become an Oasis of Hope in Milton Keynes and beyond
During this pandemic, we have witnessed the best and the worst of humanity: poisonous and partisan politics, fear tactics, hoarding behaviour and worse. Yet, the new church must work tirelessly, day and night, to preach and practice legitimate hope. We must be the vehicle that transports the message of hope and abundant life found in the eternal relationship with God and Christ. Yes, even in the dark dismal days of covid-19, as the city church, we must let our light shine: we must put it on a stand, and allow it to give others the same light we enjoy.
Finally, to be renewed, we must be a creative church
It is rumoured that when the lockdown began, the devil went to see God and bragged that he had finally managed to close all the churches worldwide. God, ever wise, smiled and said, ‘Yes, I’ll grant you that, but have you noticed I opened a church in every household on earth!’ He left without finishing his coffee!
Within days of the lockdown, faithful servants all over the world made plans to do church using the digital technology at our disposal. Even as we were confined and restricted by the virus, we continued to praise and worship on Zoom, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, Lifesize, Webchat, and yes even Tiktok! And we will continue to do this, for as God says through the prophet Isaiah:
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43: 19 NIV®
Understand this, my dear sisters and brothers: the church has always been God’s plan. God is the source of its power: he renews it. The church does not derive power from anyone other than the God who spoke the world into existence. His grace is sufficient for you, and you, and you, and me, as his church. That truth must never be forgotten. So, go back to the communities where you live, work, and play, and be open to the spirit of renewal all around you in Jesus’ name.