“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 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).
INTRO: January a year ago I captured this image, early in the morning at the summit of Mount Sinai; we were looking east into the rising sun. I believe I’ll always see this view in my mind’s eye when I think of the beginning of a new day, or a new year, or a new chapter in my life.
This New Year I’d like to share a story that pretty much sums up my trajectory into 2013, and that articulates the way I want my readers to be thinking when it comes to charting a course into the future.
SOURCE: The chain of custody of this narrative is impossible to document completely, so I’ll simply offer credit to the extent that I can.
I first heard the illustration last Sunday morning, December 30, in a sermon by Earl Smith; Earl serves on the pastoral team at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon.
Earl had already reworked the original story to fit into his most excellent message. So he dug through his garage, found a box of old notes, and determined that he most likely gleaned the idea from an article in a 2003 edition of the periodical, Lectionary Homiletics.However, since Earl has long since donated his entire collection to a seminary, he can’t confirm the source.
Today, I have further tweaked the account to fit with both my writing style and the way I have been thinking about discipleship.
Regardless, the core idea is very helpful. So I want you to read carefully, and to possibly re-imagine exactly what you mean when you think or talk about the Christian faith.
THE STORY: Here it is, retooled and re-told by me, but with special thanks to my friend, Earl Smith:
One day, around the time of spring graduation, a college chaplain received an angry telephone call from an irate father. The man’s daughter, who would soon be graduating with a hard-earned degree in civil engineering, had turned down a solid job-offer with a prestigious Fortune 500 company. Instead, she was going to Haiti, where she’d be serving the poorest of the poor.
The angry father berated the chaplain for his influence on his daughter, and for his topsy-turvy values. “It’s all your fault,” he shouted. “You turned her away from a promising career for something like this!”
The chaplain listened politely. Then, when the father finally stopped ranting, he asked a question: “Tell me, did you have your daughter baptized?”
“Well of course,” the father answered.
“Did you take her to Sunday school, and did your family attend worship each week as she was growing up?”
“Yes we did.”
“Furthermore, did you encourage your daughter to participate in youth fellowship, to go through confirmation, and to attend summer camp as a teenager?”
“Well, then,” the chaplain observed, “with all due respect, I think you’re the one responsible for her decision to go into the mission field.”
For a few seconds there was a loaded silence on the other end of the telephone. Then, with some hesitation, the father replied, “But all we were doing was trying to make her into a good Presbyterian.”
“Well,” the chaplain chuckled, “You failed miserably! Instead, what you managed to do was to make your daughter into a disciple of Jesus Christ!”
2013 – Standing in front of a whole range of possibilities!
WOW! We each have this opportunity, this choice when it comes to how we negotiate our way through the year 2013; we can continue to keep the ball rolling along the well-worn track of the status quo… or we can make the decision to grow as committed Followers of the Way of Jesus.
This is a great time to put the listless, tired, worn and mediocre precepts of nostalgia and religiosity behind us. Instead, we can make the decision to engage The Life-Charged Life!
This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 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 43:16, 18-19).