The E Word

God’s New Thing

Our God is always doing a new thing.
Let us pray.
Almighty and Everliving God, in whom there is no variation or shifting shadow due to change, show us what you’re up to. Show us what you’ve been up to, show us what it means to be unchanging and yet to always be doing something new. Be with us this morning, and stay with us. Amen.
We are in the season of Epiphany, the season of revealing, of realizing, of new things,
“See I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears it tingle.” Our God is always doing new things.
And who knew that better than poor Eli, from our first reading this morning? He’s been a priest in the temple for his whole life, and now he’s training up this young man who apparently has the privilege of hearing directly from God, something that hasn’t happened to Eli in years and years, and what does young Samuel hear? That God is about to upend the way that things have always been, that God is going to be replace the social standing and the power of the priest with the social standing and power of the prophet in the ancient near east, that God is going to do a new thing.
Samuel heard from the Lord that God was about to shake things up, on His way to make something new happen, and it actually came at the expense of Eli. What do we do with that? We’ll come back to it, I promise, but let’s look at what’s happening in the New Testament this morning.
Paul is giving a wild exhortation in the letter to the Corinthians and there’s a lot to focus on in this section, no question, but the part that I want us to see with some clarity is toward the end of the section, where Paul says, “…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” For thousands of years the Spirit of God, Pneuma, Ruach, the very life-giving and life-sustaining breath and presence of the living God was housed in the Temple, only, and before that in the ark of the Covenant, in the tent of meeting, only, but Paul is telling us that is simply not the case anymore. The truth of it is that the Spirit of the Living God has fallen afresh and not only is the presence of God not limited to the temple or the ark or any geographical location or specific place, but is everywhere, all the time, all at once, AND is housed in us, in the Christian, WE are the temples, we are the home of the Spirit of the Living God, the Living God lives in us. This is new and different and fresh and confusing and confounding, but it’s real. God is doing a new thing.
Always, Always, always is our God doing a new thing.
Christ calling Philip from Bethsaida and Nathanael who is incredulous and yet convinced, a new thing. Jesus being identified as the Son of God, the King of Israel, Jesus telling Nathanael, “very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” That’s new! The very incarnation of God in Jesus, God wrapped up in flesh, God become man, that’s N E W. God is ALWAYS doing a new thing.
So what do we do with that? If God is  always doing a new thing, does that mean that God is always changing? Is God always in flux? Is God’s mind changing all the time? If we believe that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, what does it mean to say, like Isaiah says “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”?
To find our answer, I think we look to a ready example we have in our day, specifically, tomorrow, Monday, January 15th. Tomorrow is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day that celebrates and commemorates all that Dr. King did in his life and legacy for the cause of equality in his day and ours’. We know that Dr. King was a Civil Rights leader and an Icon who fought tooth and nail for the equity of African Americans, women, and workers, and shined a bright light on the plight of the oppressed, and within all that, we cannot forget that Dr. King was a pastor.
He was a brilliant theologian who never allowed his theology to stop at the end of the sermon or the book, but took it all out of the pulpit, and worked toward the new thing that God was doing in the world. Dr. King had a Christology, a belief about the person and work of Christ that cast Christ as a “trailblazer.” Christ as Trailblazer, the one who forged the path, the one who walked it first, “the firstborn of all creation” as the apostle Paul says in the letter to the Colossians.
Dr. King didn’t go up the mountaintop and see the glory of the living God all on his own, he followed the path up that mountain that was already blazed by the Living God in Jesus Christ. Christ as Trailblazer laid the path for Dr. King and countless others to follow for the cause of Justice, Civil Rights, and Equality.
God was doing a new thing in the time of Dr. King because God is always doing a new thing, and God is doing a new thing in our time today, too. We serve that same God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, who is always doing a new thing, bringing life from death, and growth from decay, raising up that which has been cast down.
So how do we see what new thing God is doing? Where do we see, resurrection, salvation, redemption, life from death, that which was cast down being raised up? Wherever that’s happening, that’s where God is. To find out what the new thing God is doing, see where God is already at work. Wherever the spirit of the Living God, the God who would go down into death and come back for the sake of those he loves, for the sake of us, wherever that God is at work already, that’s where we go.
Our jobs as believers, as Christians is not to do the new thing ourselves, or to make something happen all our own power, but to see where the Living God is already moving, working, active in the world, and to show up there, too. Our job is to find where God already is, and catch up.
And how freeing is that? How freeing is it to see that we are not meant to do this all our own and that God is not just some lovely idea, some actionable concept, that urges us to do good in the world, but that God is REAL and is already on the move, already working in the world, and we just have to go wherever resurrection is happening, or needs to happen, wherever that which is cast down is being raised, or where it needs to be raised up, and join with God in the work of redemption of the world. God’s already saved the world, no question, that’s not on us, we just have this opportunity to go and be a part of the salvation that we ourselves have already experienced.
Our God who is always doing a new thing, has called us to this work, this eternally new work, and our response, the only reasonable response to a God who could get up out of the grave, is to follow wherever the spirit of the Living God is leading. That’s our job.
So where in the life of our church, in our lives individually, specifically, do we see resurrection happening? Where does it need to happen? Are the food-insecure on the east side of Fort Worth being fed? Is God calling you to be a part of that ministry? Is that where the Living God is already at work? Do people need coats? Do people need help? Is there an instance of injustice that demands our attention? You want to know where the presence of God is at work? Look to where people need help, and go there. Look at where God is already moving in your own life, and go there. And here’s the thing: following the Living God, following Christ the Trailblazer costs something. It cost Eli the priest his social standing, it cost the apostle Paul his pride, and it cost Dr. King his life. It costs something, of course it does, but that cost is worth it because life spent following wherever our Trailblazing God already is, is the only life worth living.
This Living God, who would go to the grave and come back for us, who promises to come back at the end of all things for us, the Living God who would care for material, physical life of the lowly, the beaten-down, the oppressed, The Living God who is the almighty trailblazer of Dr. King in our time, is always on the move, is always working and acting in the world, and is always, ALWAYS, doing a new thing, and our job, as those who follow that almighty trailblazer, is just to catch up.



This community of St. Martin’s is very special—I suspect that all church communities think they are special, but this one truly is…and Bob and I have been here long enough to be absolutely certain of it.  We were welcomed with open arms and loving hearts back in 1983.  Our son, Chris, was just 2. This faithful community prayed for healing and eventually prayed for Chris’ younger sister, Katy, to be born.  When Katy arrived in 1986, we made plans for a visit to Albuquerque, where both sets of grandparents resided, her aunt was a priest there and her maternal grandfather was serving as bishop.  That seemed like sufficient personnel to get a little baby baptized.  When we presented our plans to  

Katy’s prospective fleet of godparents, we were met with a most interesting response from one of the godmothers.  Sharon said, “well then, Phyllis, all of us from St. Martin’s will just pack up bologna sandwiches and get in my white van and go with you to Albuquerque”.  Suddenly, like the blinding light on the road to Damascus, it all made sense!  Katy’s community was here in Texas, not in New Mexico.  St. Martin’s would be the place for her baptism and friends and family…even clergy family, could come join us for the service, which they did.   Community—it was all about community.  Duh, Phyllis.

Here we are today, the faithful community we are, gathered for baptism (later) and for Eucharist.  Faithfully and together. 

St. Paul offers us an interesting message directed to his friends, the Corinthians  – He starts with a rather glowing thanksgiving for the people of this community in Corinth.  He offers thanksgiving for the grace of God that has been given to them in Christ Jesus, and that they have been enriched in him in every way—like speech and knowledge…  Now, remember these are folks well known for a pretty significant amount of fussing and fighting.  Previously, they wanted to know whose spiritual gifts were the best and at one point they also had to be reminded that they were all vital parts of the body and were called to work together.  And here is Paul with these uplifting words about them?  When I was working full time, such commentary came under the category of “affirm that which you can”.  Set the bar high.  St. Paul calls us, like the Corinthians, to be a different kind of community, one that, because of God’s grace, undercuts divisions and separations that exist in the world.    We are the community of faith with and for little Corey as we welcome him into the household of God.  We are the community that makes bologna sandwiches and takes them on the road, if that is where we need to be.

My cousin had her second cataract procedure this week.  When I took her home, although still a bit loopy from the “I don’t care” drugs, she asked me, as she got out of the car, what I was doing for the rest of the day.  I told her about the upcoming sermon and the opportunity to tie together the first Sunday of Advent and Baptism.   She said “I’ll think about that”.  Two hours later, a one-word text from my cousin beeped in.  It said “Beginnings”.  Well, there it was!  Both Advent I, the beginning of our new liturgical year, (which is B for us nerds!) and the beginning of Corey’s Christian life as he becomes a member of the Church- capital “C” and the community of St. Martin’s.

The season of Advent reminds us that everything Jesus said and did during his earthly life remains relevant, life-giving and essential in our lives today and until “Christ comes again”.  And we are reminded that we do not know when that might be… We are called to always live lives of justice and righteousness. We are called to not just say or repeat the baptismal covenant, but to live those vows everywhere, all the time. Our lives should reflect the life of the one whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

It is this life of justice and righteousness that little Corey is invited into through baptism.  He is baptized into both Jesus’ death and into his life.  In baptism Corey dies to all that Christ defeated on the cross: violence and oppression and hatred and darkness and death.  He is reborn to all that resurrection brings to birth: peace and justice and love and light and life.  We make the vows on Corey’s behalf today and along with his parents and godparents, we promise to teach him and show him the ways of Christ so that he knows, without any doubt, the way of hope, peace, joy and love.   

Baptism, like Advent, reminds us of what it means to be a Christian.  We promise that, we too, will live out our baptism as a loving community in Christ: nurturing one another in faith, upholding one another in prayer and encouraging one another in service. We can do this. We do do this.

Today, Corey becomes a new creation and is welcomed into the church community, sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever.  May we remember our own baptisms and the Advent lives of hope, peace, joy and love we are all called to live.  AMEN.