The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire


  
 
    






Guest Sermon - November 11, 2018
 
Pastor Arnie Johnson
Sermon Title: "All Things New"

Old Testament: Isaiah 43:16-21 (NRSV) -  Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: 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.

New Testament: John 13:34-35 (NRSV) - I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  

Rev 21:5-7 (NRSV):  And the Lord God, who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.  
 
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, our Lord, our Strength, and our Redeemer. Amen

     What a grand and glorious day! This is indeed a day of new beginnings just as every new day becomes. Even though you continue a new journey in this beautiful church in Marlborough searching for a new pastor, I, as a guest in your pulpit, am committed anew to continue to remain in a ministry team with you as needed, spreading God’s Word and making disciples for Jesus Christ. Working together with the loving people here in Marlborough as we minster together, we ALL can and will do great things for the Lord as we look to a new future and new opportunities to make a difference in our community for Christ!

     As you may have already discerned, the theme for today’s service is “New.” When we think of the word “new,” and we have something old, does that mean that we throw away all the “old” and replace it with all “new?” No, of course not! The “old” has lots of good use left in it. (Hopefully me as well!) The “old” just gets improved!  Which reminds me of a story I once heard about a business that specializes in restoring old furniture. The owner was asked about what goes into being an excellent restorer of old furniture. He answered “Imagination. Creative Imagination. You have to see past all the layers of paint, chips, past the mars and scars. You have to look past all the faults in the wood and the broken pieces. You need to be able to see the piece of furniture in its original beauty. Your eye and mind have to have imagination, and you actually get kind of excited about the possibilities that you see beneath the surface. Then, you have to have time and energy. Not just a little bit of time and energy, but a lot of time and energy. These things don’t just happen overnight. It takes time. It takes disciplined energy. The miracle doesn’t happen immediately at the snap of a finger. It takes the necessary time and energy. He also said, “Love is more important than skill.” You need to love the piece of furniture and its possibilities. The skills aren’t that hard to learn: the skills of using the right solutions to strip it, the skill of choosing the right sandpaper, the skill of fixing a broken hinge. These skills are important but not as important as loving the possibilities you can see in the furniture.”

     And aren't we much like that old furniture at times - both in our church and individual lives? We all sometimes need imagination to get past all the dirt and scratches in our lives. It often seems we just can’t get past the muck to really love, the way God wants us to love. But, the truth is that if we turn ourselves over to God’s love, God has said that all things can be made new again! But God does not start from scratch in our lives or church.  No, God takes that which is old and makes it new again! God would not take something valuable and throw it away and start afresh. That isn’t the way God works. What God means by “making things new” is not making a new chair to sell in a retail store, but to take that which is corroded, scarred, and broken down, and restore it to its original pristine beauty. That is what the phrase means, “I the Lord God will make all things new.” We need to understand how God works. And TV has found that the old being restored into new is great business. I love watching Salvage
Dogs and Barnwood Builders where the old is repurposed!

     As we look at today’s Old Testament scripture in Isaiah, we need to be aware of the context in which God says through Isaiah that, “Behold, I will do a new thing.” The previous chapters in Isaiah reminded a despairing people that God had delivered them from captivity and slavery in Egypt, BUT would do an even greater thing. Yet, Israel should realize that God would do an even greater work in the future when the Lord promised to make ALL things new.  And even if the people of God found themselves going through desolate desert wilderness experiences, the Lord promised that he would never forsake them or any of us but will always provide water and streams of blessings in abundance in the hardest of times. Therefore, God's Chosen People, whom He created, can and should praise Him for an even more glorious “Exodus” from slavery that will take place when the Messiah returns to re-gather His people and establish His Kingdom on earth.  A deliverance from future captivity in Babylon is foretold, but there is reference to even greater events of a universal redemption and salvation of all peoples including us when God will lead all humanity into freedom.

     It is said that George Washington, the father of American freedom, stood upon the promises of God in Isaiah when facing the discouraging winter at Valley Forge when all seemed lost in the heroic battle for American freedom. Or as that great American patriot, Patrick Henry said at the time of the valiant American battle for freedom and the liberty to establish a new nation under God, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!"

    And so, it is no accident that the biblical theme of “new” is carried into the New Testament and today's scripture from Revelation. We find that the final revelation from heaven states that there will come a time when God will physically dwell with humanity and that "the saints" (or Christians) “will be His people” and He will “be their God.” We are promised that both in the present and in eternity, the Christians (referred to as "Saints" in Revelation) will enjoy a new intimacy with God.  The new order will be without sorrow for God “will wipe every tear" from our eyes, and death, mourning, and pain will vanish, “for the old order of things will have passed away” when God makes ALL things new.

     This dramatic change to a new world order is beautifully expressed in the words of Revelation when God proclaims, “I am making all things new!” This revelation, my friends, is “trustworthy and true,” and John was instructed to write down that fact. The One bringing about the change is Christ, who calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, interpreted by the phrase "the Beginning and the End." All those who are thirsty, including us, are promised that they will be able to drink without cost from the springs of the water of life. This refers not only to physical thirst but to a desire for the spirit of God, eternal life, freedom, and spiritual blessings.

     Christ proclaims finally in Revelation that whoever "overcomes" will inherit all these promises and that “I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Isaiah expresses the future promised intimate relationship between US, you and me, (and all the other "saints") and God in both the present, future, and the eternal state. So we see that God promises in many ways in our scriptures today, that the Lord will work with us, scars, dirt, scratches, and all, to make us new in Him!

     Today and in the days ahead here in the Federated Church of Marlborough, we, you and I, whether we be here together or apart, we will be working with God so that we too can become “new,” new in Jesus Christ, re-newed in the Church, new in the community, new in the region, and new in the world.

     Every day is a new day. What was yesterday is not today, and what is today will not be tomorrow. So, whatever new happens today can be changed. The bad of today can be changed to be new tomorrow!

     So, let us all pray that in this new journey we are all on together as the people of God today, that the Lord will give us the strength and power to go into the world, minister to others in love, and make new disciples for Jesus Christ as we share God's Good News. Let us all remember and take heart that Jesus sacrificed himself for us, and that he then claimed us for the work of building the Kingdom of God! Even though we are not celebrating Holy Communion together today, Jesus told his disciples during the Last Supper in the Upper Room that "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Perhaps it might be better to paraphrase the passage this way: This cup, which is poured out for you, signifies the blood of the new covenant, which is shortly to be ratified in (or by) the shedding of my blood. Or, this cup is the new covenant, poured out for you with my blood.

     So we find in Jesus’ time that lives were being changed, being renewed or becoming new. The Old Covenant of Law was finally being changed to the New Covenant of Love and Hope long ago predicted by the prophet Jeremiah who said "The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel ...... says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31:31-34) and also the prophet Ezekiel who said, "Thus saith the Lord. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws....you will be my people, and I will be your God." (Ezek 36:26-28 -NIV)

     And so when all is said and done, what does this REALLY mean for us in this church in Marlborough today? The letter in the Bible written to the Hebrews states it very clearly in the Message version of the Bible when it says, “Through the Spirit, Christ offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God. Like a will that takes effect when someone dies, the new covenant was put into action at Jesus' death. His death marked the transition from the old plan to the new one, canceling the old obligations and accompanying sins, and summoning us as heirs to receive the eternal inheritance that was promised them. Christ brought together God and his people in this new way." (Heb 9:15-17 -MSG)

     And so as we make a transition from the changes, disappointments, fears,  and failures of the past, I pray that this time we share now will be our "turn around" time, as we serve a God who restores, renews, refreshes, and continually does new things in our lives when we are willing to let go of the hurts and disappointments of  the past and lay hold upon the glorious future with faith in a perfect God who continues to do all things well even as he makes us and "all things" new in a New Covenant! And, to love others was not a new commandment (see Leviticus 19:18), but to love others as much as Christ loved others was revolutionary. Now we are to love others based on Jesus' sacrificial love for us. Such love will not only bring unbelievers to Christ; it will also keep believers strong and united in a world hostile to God. Jesus was a living example of God's love, as we are to be living examples of Jesus' love.

     Let us all realize that God is making all things new, each and every day!

Finish singing “All Things New”! (Original song words by Rev. Dr. Mary Johnson, music Pastor Arnie Johnson)

Let us pray: Thank you precious Father for all you do to make us new every day, new in You and new in Jesus Christ. Continue to be with us as we prepare to go out into our world and bring the Good News of Your world to everyone we have contact with. Let us always remember that Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, and that You have created through Him a world of faith, hope, and love that has no end. We pray that the words that have been spoken this day are the words of encouragement that we all need in our broken lives, and that we will all be renewed in our Christian. Renew us today Lord with your love as we go out into the world so that we can spread Your love to all we come in contact. We pray these things in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So may it be, Amen.

This sermon was prepared for oral delivery.