The followers of Jesus over the last two thousand years have made progress in faith by doing something unusual with their allotted minutes of life. They/we, make our way with God and life by “remembering forward and hoping backward.” The logic is simple, if God did it then, God can do it again. Even more to the point, the logic is, if God can work through flawed people like our ancestors in their time, then God can work through our sins, fears, stubbornness, and inattention in this moment. That is the essence of hope-if God is not dead, then we have every good reason to hope! And while God could run the universe without us, God has chosen to involve us in God’s enterprise. So to each generation the invitation goes out not to simply pass time, kill time or consume moments but to attune ourselves to what God is doing in the moment and then join God with all that we are and all that we have.
For People with Bishop Rob Wright
The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.
Read the Transcript:
What Isaiah says is, hey, hello, hey in there, God is doing a new thing. And the only ask that the Prophet makes is that, don’t you perceive it, right? The only thing is required is some attention a little bit of focus. The reason why I want to point us too that is because I think that’s what’s going to energize us. If anything’s going to energize us through what I call this post-COVID, great malaise, is what is God doing?
Easton: This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.
Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m your host, Melissa Rau. And today, we’re talking with Bishop Wright about Diocesan in Council. Is that what we call it, Bishop? Remind me?
Rob: Yeah, that’s what we call it. We call it, Annual Council, Diocesan in Council.
Melissa: There we go. It’s kind of like convention, another number of other dioceses will call it where everybody gets together and talks about governance and the future and vision of what God is calling them to be in and for their local diocese and beyond.
And so, we are going to be discussing, is it Isaiah chapter– I’m sorry. Yes, Chapter 43, Verse 19, which is–
Rob: You got it.
Melissa: I’m about to do a new thing. Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
Rob: That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.
Melissa: So, Bishop, we’ve been celebrating your 10 year anniversary as bishop in the diocese. And now you’re getting to go to do this great council and what new thing do you feel God is going to be doing in in with y’all?
Rob: Right. So, I appreciate that. So, you know, one of the great things we get to do at Annual Council, is you know, we get to do budgets, and you know, all that sort of stuff. And that’s fine, that’s a good part of ministry, right? But what’s most exciting is we get to worship together, that’s my favorite part. We get to worship together, and I get to plan with others, you know, that what the worship will look like. And so, we talked about it at clergy conference some months ago. And now we’re going to talk about it to all of the representatives of all the congregations, which is Isaiah 43:19, you know. And Isaiah 43:19, you know, in a quick snapshot is that God wants to do a new thing to the exiles, those we are drug off from Israel and have set up shop in Babylon, now God is doing a new thing through a new somebody, and they get to return home. And God says, I’m not asking you to do a new thing, necessarily. I’m telling you, I am doing a new thing. And I think that’s important to say now. I think that is energizing because many of us are tired. Many of us are pooped. We don’t have any more bandwidth. We can’t add one more thing to life. I have talked about this text with a lot of people and they were worried that what I was saying was, hey, I want you to do a new thing. But that is not what the Bible says.
What Isaiah says is, hey, hello, hey, in there, God is doing a new thing. And the only ask that the prophet makes is, don’t you perceive it, right? The only thing that is required is a little bit of attention. A little bit of focus. Hey, God is doing a new thing. And the reason why I want to point us to that is because I think that’s what’s going to energize us, if anything’s going to energize us through what I call this post COVID, great malaise is what is God doing? And let that idea to have its way with us. So, I want to know what God is doing in people’s lives. I want to know what God is doing in congregations’ ad what God is doing in our shared ministry among the poor. You know, among those who don’t have housing, at church at the common ground. I want to know what God is doing in our college chaplaincies at UGA, and other places. I want to know ultimately what God is doing with us, in middle and North Georgia, because I think really, that’s the only genuine way we can be energized. I mean, I think we can say some things and get some nice t-shirts and say, off we go. And, you know, that will go a little way. But what goes a long way? What really mobilizes us is the fire of what God is doing. And I think that God is doing what God used to do. That’s the funny thing about this story. God is making a way in the wilderness and God is turning dry places into places that can be refreshing for us. So, even while God is pointing forward, God is saying, hey, you know, remember who I have been and know that I’m that very same God right now.
Melissa: Wow, that was kind of powerful because I’m thinking new thing.
Rob: Yeah. Yeah, right.
Melissa: I just recently listened to unlocking us with Brene Brown and I was going back through some of her older episodes. And she was interviewing Father Richard Rohr. And I loved his quote, he’s like, everybody’s all for transformation, but nobody loves change.
Rob: Right. That’s right.
Melissa: Which I think is really funny. So, I think when we hear new thing, some people might get a little uncomfortable by that. Especially when they’re used to the old thing.
Melissa: How do you think God shows up in change?
Rob: Oh wow. How does God show up in change? I mean, I think, you know, I guess what kind of change are we talking about? I think one of the changes that happens to all of us is life changes. The kids graduate and leave, we become empty nesters, that’s a threshold moment. Some of us have a medical reorientation, you know, something happens to us medically and we have to reorient our lives. Some of us have a relationship reorientation, whether we get a new marriage with the same old spouse, or whether we end the marriage as tragic as that is, and start a whole new life. Perhaps we even lose a spouse to death, etc. So, I mean, new life, opportunities for new life are always coming. I think this is the best part about God, right? So, there’s no change in life that we can throw at God, where God doesn’t say, I can return that ball. I know how to hit that. And so, I mean, but here’s what the invitation is always. So, the invitation is the same with the exiles, right? I want you to come home now, I want you to go back to Israel, this is a threshold moment. But you are going to go back different, right? You are going to have to get some new lens to see me and to see yourself. At least in this story, in Isaiah, infidelity to God has cost you a lot, right? So, now you get a second chance. And that’s a message for some of us. Some of us have driven ourselves down dead end roads because of decision making that we made out of humility, I’m sorry, out of arrogance, and not humility, out of ego, etc., etc. And we ended up in dry places. We’ve ended up in dark places. And we have ended up alone and broken. God says, no problem. I know how to do that. I’m God.
So, there’s an invitation always in no matter, whatever change situation we find ourselves in, for God to make a way out of no way. So, that’s how God does change. But the change always costs. And this is what we don’t want, right? So, it’s not that people don’t want change, people do want change. If you won the Powerball last night, your life would change, you would be an instant billionaire, right? Nobody wants to give that Powerball ticket back. But what we don’t want is loss, that goes with change. We don’t want the loss. And so, that’s just not the way God works, right? So, there is loss. There will be loss.
But here is the good news about the loss. What mitigates the loss is that Jesus gives loss, meaning, right? So, it’s not loss in vain, which feels disorienting and feels stupid, frankly. But to have Jesus to break-in to the loss, the transformation costs, and say, let me tell you why that’s meaningful? That’s meaningful, because those are the dues you pay to get the life you say you want, right? I’ve said it in other places, in Jesus’ invitation to new, it is your mind and you’re behind getting in line, right? So, there is an alignment that happens. And the alignment comes as a result of you and I finding meaning. So, Jesus says, follow me. You’re going to have to lose some things. You’re going to have to give some stuff away. But the life you’re going to get money can’t purchase. Or Jesus says to him, says to us, via his call to us, hey, live this way. Take yourself out of the center. Live for other people. Connect with other people. And you’ll have a life and a community and a vibrancy you never knew before. It’s going to cost, it’s a reorientation, and we get bought off by that sadly. And so, we end up bifurcated. We sit in church, and we hear these wonderful messages, and then we walk out into the parking lot and say, I’m just going back to what I always did. That’s because we are human. That’s not a condemnation. But sometimes these life moments, even as tragic and hard as they can be, finally allow us to propel ourselves into the new disorientation, only to find a friend in that wilderness. And so, this is Isaiah 43:19.
You’ve got a friend in the wilderness, a friend who knows how to handle wilderness, a friend that knows very well what to do with change, who’s calling you into this disorienting place, but says all along, I got your back. And so, there’s anxiety that we have to face when God does a new thing. But it is an anxiety that can be overcome with fidelity.
Melissa: So, where does perception fall into line with that?
Rob: What do you mean?
Melissa: Like, you know, do you perceive? Do you perceive it?
Melissa: And I’m like, okay, I’m thinking of the should right now. And I know that I should strike that. We should strike should, shame and should are all wrapped up.
Rob: All wrapped up.
Melissa: But I don’t mean it to go there. But I’m just wondering like, might we sense the anxiety before we feel the anxiety? Or is the anxiety the perception? Or is it the where with all? When we start feeling anxious and stressful because we are looking at something new in our life, like one of those threshold moments, that we’re at least able to perceive that God is in it?
Rob: Well, that’s really a great– Yeah. So, I mean, this is all he asked. All Isaiah asked is said, hey, God is doing God’s thing. God is not dependent on you. God is doing God’s thing. But God is inviting you into it. And so, Isaiah says, don’t you perceive it? So, the ask is to perceive. And so, that is trying to break into ultimately what kills our appetite for liberation. And that is sort of a dullness, right? Sort of a melees and dullness. And what pierces the melees and dullness is that God is doing a thing? And so, the perception pieces is, yeah, what are your fundamentals right now at this threshold moment in your life? What’s your quiet time like? What’s your prayer time like? Maybe you’re in the car like me, and you’re listening to the music that touches your soul? You know, maybe it’s by the beach, maybe it’s at the mountains? Where do you go to get down to yourself, you know, as my mother used to say, where you can hear yourself think, right?
So, here’s what I really believe, I believe that the spirit is flickering in all of us. And we’ve just got to get quiet enough to hear it, right? And I think that the vast majority of us know some things that we don’t want to face about the choices that we should be making. And we haven’t found the courage or the faith or both to take that up.
You know, I was talking to someone the other day who was really struggling to write this book, they knew in their gut, that they should write this book, they knew all along, they knew that they had something to say. But all the little demons came and sat on their shoulder and told them all the reasons why they shouldn’t do it. Finally, they were able to overcome it after about five years of playing tennis with the don’t write the book demons, only to find out that this book was just what the doctor ordered. It was blessing the souls of so many people, etc. But this person knew, deep down, that they needed to do this piece to be themselves, right? And it didn’t have anything to do with anybody else. It didn’t have to deal with celebrity, or money, or perception, or anything. It was just about what they had to do to be true to themselves. And so, I think that that’s the invitation here.
And so, God is saying to God’s people, be true to yourself, you know I made you as my partner, you know I did. So be my partner and allow that to drive. And I think that’s the good news. You know, some people worry about shame and obligation. They have some kind of judgmental God floating on a cloud with a long white beard. I don’t know anything about that, God. I don’t know anything about that God. I know, that’s the God that we make in our own minds, who keeps record of all our misdeeds. This God is saying, I will not be put off my trail. This God is saying, you are mine and I am yours and I’m inviting you home, the best home that there is for you. And that’s with me, in my will, doing what God has called you uniquely to do. That’s home for us.
And so, when he says behold, I’m doing a new thing. He is saying, come home to yourself. I quote all the time, one of my favorite 70s R&B singers, a guy by the name of Sly, had a band, Sly and the Family Stone. And the song is, Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself. Again. And then he says, again, right? He punctuates it.
So, whenever God is doing a new thing, God is actually calling us back down to the deepest, best part of ourselves. And so, all the people that I know, you know, the great saints that I know, of the church and beyond the church, who are doing extraordinary, impactful work in the world, you talk to them. I mean, you get quiet with them, and they are telling you that the seeds of this were in them from the beginning.
I talked to Ambassador Andrew Young and somebody I like to quote all the time, I just love him. He’s the grandfather I never had. And Andrew Young talks about as a boy in the 30s in New Orleans, where he was raised. He was raised in a neighborhood where there were Jews, where there were Nazis, where there were blacks, where there are people of all kinds of ethnic stripes. And his father taught him a lesson there about how to be alongside of all different kinds of people. And even when you met people who hated, that you weren’t to castigate them, to disparage the, because hatred is a sickness. And so, you pity people who are trapped by hate.
Now, he goes on to become a minister. And not only that, he goes on to become an ambassador. But the seeds of him being an ambassador were sown on his daddy’s lap, when his daddy was telling him how to be with all different kinds of people. So, when God says to Andrew Young, do this and do that, and the other thing, he’s just simply saying to him, come and be who I already made you to be. So, behold I do a new thing is not, hey, come do a new thing. It’s, hey, let’s get back to basics here. Who are you? Well, you’re my people. You’re my covenant people. You’re my beloved people. So, come and let that shine.
And that’s why I want to talk about that at annual council because the Diocese of Atlanta is a good diocese, a great diocese, in fact, with a lot of wonderful people. But we got to get back down to the rocket fuel, the rocket fuel that makes us distinct and that energizes us especially now in this post COVID world.
Melissa: Behold, God’s about to do a new thing.
Rob: I think so.
Melissa: I love it.
Rob: I think so. I know so.
Melissa: Well, I pray that your annual council is everything that you hope it will be and that y’all have an incredible– That you’re galvanized together to do that work together.
Rob: Yeah. I love that word.
Rob: Yeah, that’s the word.
Melissa: Yeah, it’s pretty great. Bishop, thank you as always for sharing your thoughts with us. And listeners thank you for listening to For People.
You can keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook @BishopRobWright. Leave a review, please subscribe, and we’ll be back with you next week.
Sintonizados con el momento
Los seguidores de Jesús, durante los últimos dos mil años, han progresado en la fe haciendo algo inusual con sus minutos de vida. Ellos/nosotros hacemos nuestro camino con Dios y la vida “recordando hacia adelante y esperando hacia atrás”. La lógica es simple, si Dios lo hizo antes, Dios puede hacerlo ahora. Más concretamente, la lógica es que si Dios puede obrar a través de personas defectuosas como nuestros antepasados en su tiempo, entonces Dios puede obrar a través de nuestros pecados, miedos, terquedad y falta de atención en este momento de la historia. Esa es la esencia de la esperanza: si Dios no está muerto, ¡entonces tenemos buenas razones para tener esperanza! Y aunque Dios podría hacer funcionar el universo sin nosotros, Dios ha elegido involucrarnos en la empresa de Dios. Entonces, para cada generación, la invitación no es simplemente pasar el tiempo, matar el tiempo o consumir momentos, sino sintonizarnos con lo que Dios está haciendo en el momento y luego unirnos a Dios con todo lo que somos y todo lo que tenemos.