Has God abandoned the Church?
Over the past fifty years the percentage of people in the United States who identify as Christian has steadily fallen from a high of 94% in 1950 to a mere 67% in 2018. While more than 100 churches a week close, new church starts tend to keep the total number of congregations number nearly constant.
When God’s people had lived in exile, in ancient Babylon, they had similar questions if God was with them. They wondered what had happened to the promise the LORD had given to David for rest from their enemies and security for his kingdom. But the prophet Isaiah reminded them that the God who brings them through the Red Sea, who vanquishes armies that pursue them, who makes a way in the wilderness for them would do a new thing with them.
This Sunday’s reading from Isaiah 43 includes a perplexing command: “Do not remember the former things, or consider things of old.” This command is especially perplexing when laid adjacent to lines evoking memories of Israel escaping from Egypt and crossing waters into the Promised Land. However, since the saving work of the LORD is described in the present tense, this command might be understood as “Do not hang on to former ways of doing things.” A line that strikingly similar to the seven last words of the Church: “We have never done it that way.”
God’s next sentence to Isaiah offers hope for ancient Israel and also for us: “I am about to do a new thing: do you not perceive it?”
In addition to shifts in the national culture, local demographic changes have affected Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church. No longer is this community growing by leaps and bounds and several other congregations provide competing communities of faith. Yet, I am convinced that God is indeed doing a new thing, do you not perceive it?
I will have more to say about Isaiah 43:16-21 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church at 8:15 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 7th.
Robert Shaw, Pastor
A Tip for Parents
Our first lesson this Sunday, John 12:1-8, tells of Mary pouring an expensive bottle of perfume on Jesus. Their treasurer immediately complained about the apparent waste, and how the perfumed could have been sold and fed many people.
If one were to tour our sanctuary, they would find many very valuable items that we use each week to teach and inspire believers.