The story the Bible tells us presents God doing one new thing after another. Here are only a few examples.
To start with, consider the act of creation. That’s as new as anything gets! Creatures where once there were none!
God calls old man Abraham to leave home and go to a place God will show him. This is something new, a surprise for Abraham.
The exodus from Egypt is, to put it plainly, something new for that band of runaway slaves who slip free from the crushing grip of empire.
Later, Israel undergoes exile for generations, then hears something new and unexpected and welcome: they are free to return to their own land.
The forces of destruction are resoundingly defeated by a new, unprecedented act of God when Jesus is raised in glory from the dead.
Divine novelty again erupts on the scene when the Church almost immediately accepts Gentiles, driven by the Spirit to offer God’s mercy to all peoples.
Finally, as the story reaches its conclusion, the Holy One seated on the throne announces to us, “See, I am making all things new.”
God does new things throughout the biblical drama, and what is more, God keeps doing new things right in front of our faces.
Some of these novelties occur in nature, where every snowflake boasts a unique design. Some happen in human society, where despite turmoil and confusion, new and welcome developments do take place. And some of God’s novelties come to flower in the privacy of our families, our lives, our hearts.
What brings us together in St. Margaret’s Church on this Saturday in September is one specific new thing that God has done, is doing, and will do, a divine novelty which we believe is well worth gathering today to celebrate. This novelty merits a blessing because it is a blessing. I speak, of course, of the union between Jocelyn and John.
This marriage is something new, the union of these two unique people. Never before have this Jocelyne and this John been united in the sacrament of marriage. This is something for which the God of new things deserves praise: the One who is the author through space and time of so much that is wonderful. Give these two credit for choosing each other; give their families, their sponsors, their friends credit for supporting them in this decision; but recognize this as well–that before this marriage was even a hope in John’s heart or Jocelyne’s heart, it was a vision foreseen by the God who made them and loves them.
So then, my friends, God is always doing something new, different from whatever has been before. We can recognize this divine proclivity in the story the Bible tells us. We can discern this powerful pattern of newness in the broad expanse of the world and in the secret places of our families, our lives, and our hearts. And certainly our festival today, here in this holy house, rejoices in how God is doing something novel in the union of Jocelyne and John and through them is doing something new in our lives as well.
How can we respond to God’s unending string of novelties? The best way is a healthy sense of wonder. Often we restrict wonder to children and eccentrics, but those of us who would claim to be neither might do ourselves a favor and reclaim wonder as a practice, a habit, especially since there is no indication whatsoever that God is going out of the business of doing new things.
What does such wonder involve? It means recognizing the new thing God has done and rejoicing over this novelty, welcoming it as the gift it is, and recognizing the newness never as threat, but always as blessing. Always as blessing! This is what it means to answer divine novelty with a healthy sense of wonder.
But this wonder by itself is never the last word. It leads us–well–to some place new. When wonder takes holds of us, we are brought to take action of a sort that is bold indeed, nothing less than an imitation of God, the God who does new things.
In other words, our wonder leads us to creative action. As we wonder at the novelties done by the God of compassion, so we go on to imitate the Holy One by exercising a creativity characterized by compassion. Through our wonder and creative action, the new thing God does bears fruit in abundance, unexpected fruit, in the new things we do, new things that cause this old world to blossom in ways beautiful and startling.
Here then is my charge, my commission–certainly to John and Jocelyne on this their wedding day, but to the rest of us gathered in this place as well.
Stay alert, my friends, to the novelties God is doing in you and around you. Precisely because they are new, they may be hard to recognize, hard to appreciate, but welcome them with wonder.
Receive them as the gifts they are, always as blessing, never as threat.
Let the creativity which is divine energize your action.
Dare to imitate the compassion of the Holy One in ways the world has not yet seen.
Then, if you let wonder and creativity and compassion characterize how you live through the years ahead, what you will find is that by some divine alchemy, your lives will be forever new, forever fresh, full of gifts, full of surprises.
I have spoken these words to you in the name of the God whose other name is Surprise: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
• Copyright for this sermon 2008, The Rev. Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission. Fr. Hoffacker is an Episcopal priest and the author of “A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals” (Cowley Publications).