Isaiah 43:1-3a, 16-21   -   "If Only"..."Next Time"


A young man who had made it big had been away from home a long time traveling to exotic places all over the world.  He had not been very attentive to his widowed mother.  His conscience began to bother him and he decided to do something about it.  He sent her a unique gift, a rare South American parrot for which he'd paid $1200.

Well, time went by.  Two weeks, three weeks, and he heard nothing.  And the fourth week he called.  When he got his mom on the phone he said, "Did you get the bird I sent you?" 


"Oh yes!"--It was so nice, I cooked it the day after it came.  It was delicious!" 

"You cooked it!  Mom, that was a rare South American parrot.  It cost me $1200.  That parrot could speak five languages."


"My goodness, son," the mother responded.  "If only YOU had said something."

If only!


We hear it all the time.  If only I hadn't had that accident.  If only I'd lived in some other place.  If only I were more beautiful.  If only he had not died so young.  If only people were friendlier to me.  If only I had more money.  If only I were younger.  If only I were older.  If only I had a different kind of job.  If only people really knew my abilities.  If only--and it goes on and on.  If only.


We're going to talk about that today, but we're going to talk about it in the context of an alternative stance:  next time.  There's a world of difference between "if only" and "next time."  "If only" looks backward; "next time" is a look forward.  "If only" is a word of defeat; "next time" is a word of hope.


Let's look at our scripture lesson.  Isaiah is often referred to as "the golden prophet."  He offers so much hope, such grand vistas of expectation.  The text at which we are looking today is a good text with which to live as we begin this New Year.  Listen again as he quotes God speaking, Verse 19, "But I'm about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"


I like the way the amplified version puts it in the present tense:  "Behold, I am doing a new thing;  now it springs forth;  do you not perceive and know it, and will you not give heed to it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."


I don't know how it is with you, but I like new beginnings.  It doesn't matter whether it's a new year, a new month, a new week, a new day--a new experience--I like new beginnings.  "A Jesuit priest, C.J. McNespy, once noted that scholars do not agree as to when the liturgical (church) year really begins.  The usual opinion, of course, is the first Sunday of Advent.  Others start with the Easter vigil.  Still others choose the Sunday which comes seventy days before Easter.  Father McNespy wraps up the controversy happily;  "in any case, since we need to be constantly starting over, it doesn't hurt to have several new years." (C.J. McNespy, America, 1-25-64, p.149, quoted by Ellsworth Kalas, "Ring Out the Old" December 29, 1985)  I'll take as many new years, as many occasions for new beginnings--as the calendar or religion or life will provide.  I'm glad for the chance for starting again.  And that's the reason I wanted to anchor what we say today in this passage of scripture from Isaiah. 


"Behold, I'm doing a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it, and will you not give heed to it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."


So it's against this background of God intervening in history, a God who is always doing a new thing--it's against that background that I want us to look at these two approaches to life--if only/next time.


1. “If Only…”

2. “Next Time…”

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