Right after the AP, CNN and Fox projected Biden would win, a friend posted the song “Everybody Rejoice” from “The Wiz” on Facebook. This freedom song fit the mood of the folks in LA, DC and NYC who were being broadcasted as they cheered and danced in the streets. The chorus rang out: “Can’t you feel a brand-new day?”
In the movie, collective rejoicing was the exuberant response to new found freedom. The Wiz set the stage with the previous song in which the hideous and oppressive wicked witch of the west belted out “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News” and beat her workers as she moved through the room. Evileen’s tyrannical ways turned beautiful people into grotesque figures and consigned them to slave labor. The moment when Evileen melted and the freedom of the enslaved took shape may have been quick, but the audience knew that Dorothy’s journey of discovery, and everything that led up to it had been a long time coming. The freedom of the slaves was not sudden. The grotesque coverings of the enslaved do not zip away and reveal the new life growing beneath them until late in the song. It is then that the audience realizes that their new life won’t be anything like the old one; as the song sings “It’s like a different way of living now.”
Death and new life take many forms in the Bible: slavery and freedom, captivity and release, disfigurement and healing, and the one Christians emphasize the most: crucifixion and resurrection. God loves us and absolutely nothing that can happen to us can trump that.
Though Ezra, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah all tell the story of the 70 years Israel was held captive in Babylon, let’s take a moment with Isaiah 43. God redeemed Israel for one reason only: love.
For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Serba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my sight and honored and I love you. (Isaiah 43:3-4)
Isaiah conflates the Exodus and the Exile to make it clear that deliverance is part of what God does for the people God loves. But God expects something in return. God wants Israel to change.
“Do not remember the former things or consider the ways of old (43:18).”
They think they are headed back to rebuild Jerusalem, and God says: “Do not.” Instead they are to look, to notice:
“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19)”
God didn’t mean they should forget everything about the past: God reminded them of the Exodus, so that can’t be right. But if their memories captivated them, they would be unable to see what God was up to in the present. Yearning for the glory days has the power to keep us in the past, so God said: Do not. Don’t forget the past, but don’t get stuck there either.
As I write this blog, it seems that 74 million people voted for Biden, and 70 million voted for Trump. That may not be close as elections go, but its as close as your neighbor when it comes to the church. The freedom most of us feel, is not universal. The new day that is dawning will need to include healing and growth – or we won’t experience the full benefit of our collective freedom. The double pandemic of COVID-19 and racial reckoning have to be worked through. God is doing something new! Can you perceive it? If we don’t, we run the risk of returning to our old ways: Not only worship in the sanctuary to LBW Setting 2, but, returning to when we were blind to the racial inequities that surround and include us.
I see evidence of your commitment to your neighbors everywhere. For example:
COVID-19 meant that all of you in congregations with feeding ministries had to come up with completely new ways of distributing food to more people than you’d ever fed before. And you did it!
The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd gave you a new awareness of violence against unarmed Black men and you chose to read and discuss books by Black authors.
Your Love for God has continually been revealed by your willingness to create new ways to show your love for your neighbors!! That’s HUGE. Don’t let that slip away without notice! You could have chosen to remain in old patterns, but instead you keep choosing to do new things! Every new thing you learn and every new action you take builds your resilience so that you can make the changes this new day will continue to require of us.
Can’t you feel a brand new day?! I think you do, and I pray we will dance into this new day together.