Isaiah 30.1-11, 18
The membership of the Methodist Church has declined over the last 12 years from around 300,000 to about 190,000. This decline comes against the background of a similar decline in other Churches and in Christian allegiance in general.
People have wondered why. Perhaps we haven’t worked hard enough. Perhaps we haven’t been listening for God’s guidance. Perhaps we have lacked faith.
Isaiah offers another explanation. We have been listening, but we didn’t want to hear what God has been saying to us. We were like my little brother who, when he didn’t want to hear something, would cover his ears and try to drown out the sound.
‘Don’t tell us the truth,’ we have thought to ourselves. ‘Just say what we want to hear, even if it’s false. We don’t want to hear any more’ about the more challenging way we ought to be going.
We shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. The truth can be difficult and uncompromising. It can be hard to swallow. It can be much easier to take comfort in old certainties, traditional answers, and the way we have always done things. But then we find ourselves wondering why churches are shrinking rather than growing. ‘Don’t tell us the truth,’ we think, ‘Just let us hear what we want to hear, even if it’s false.’
Yet Isaiah also has a message of hope. We don’t have to be stuck in this dead end. ‘The Lord God is waiting to show how kind he is and to have pity on us. The Lord always… blesses those who trust him.’It’s never too late to face up to the truth and seek to move on. If we trust God to show how kind he is, and to have pity on us, and to bless us we can surely find the courage we will need to on venture to new ground and try new things, to allow God to reinvent us.