Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Watch This!” based on Isaiah 65:17-25 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, November 17, 2019
The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever—that was the attention grabbing headline that invited casual readers of the website wired.com to click through and read a little bit more about this supposed new miracle drug. So of course, I did click through, because you know…who doesn’t want their painful memories erased forever, right? And when I did, I learned much more about something called PKMzeta inhibitors. They are the memory zappers, the Forgetting Pills, if you will, of that sensational headline.
So where do we sign up to get our hands on these wonder pills? Apparently nowhere. I didn’t notice it right away, but it turns out that that online article wasn’t from last week or last month, but rather March of 2012. And as I looked a little further, I realized that there was another similar article with a similar headline from 2009…and one from 2006, as well as other articles from 2014 and 2017, each one proclaiming the same sort of “wonder pill” headlines. And yet here we are in 2019. And if those miraculous, memory erasing forgetting pills ever got out of the testing phase, I sure never heard about it.
Guess we’re out of luck. But it does grab our attention and stir our emotions, doesn’t it? The idea of being able to block the bad stuff of the past, the prospect of an existence where the skeletons in our closet no longer haunt us, the trauma of past experiences no longer debilitates us. That horrible junior prom? Gone. The IRS audit nightmare of 2008? No longer exists. The humiliation of having to walk out and face former coworkers after getting fired? That night spent on the bathroom floor because a kidney stone had you (rather than the other way around)? Imagine a life where those things have been effectively, permanently blocked from occupying space in your mind.
It isn’t a reality for us yet. But the day is coming. For that’s the life that the Word of God holds out before us today in Isaiah 65 on this Saints Triumphant Sunday. Actually God promises something even better than merely blocking out the pain of the past. He promises a place where new pains no longer get created either. Rejoice, Saints Triumphant, Jesus offers more than a forgetting pill. He gives us a heavenly welcome home.
The brand new translation—the Evangelical Heritage Version—renders Isaiah 65:17 in vivid fashion: Watch this! (God says) I am about to create new heavens and a new earth. This is not like when the two year old tugs on your sleeve and excitedly says, “Watch this, watch this!” and then he burps or spins around in a circle or counts to five. (“That’s great, kid, but maybe not worth the hype!”) When the God who dug the Grand Canyon and carved out the Himalayas simply by opening his mouth, when that God excitedly says, “Watch this!” you better keep your eyes open and lean forward to the edge of your seats. Because it’s gonna be worth the hype. When he acts, he’s going to do something beyond your wildest imagination.
And this new heavens and new earth will indeed be beyond our wildest imagination, an existence that we can’t fully wrap our minds around just yet. Because on this side of heaven, we only know an existence where everything that lives and moves is tainted, where even the greatest blessings are contaminated by sin.
Anybody with me in wanting a magic pill that would make OTHER people forget their bad experiences with us? If only! A forgetting pill that would make our kids forget all the times we totally weren’t good spiritual leaders for our families, the times we lost our cool with them or paid attention to our phones instead of their needs. How about a forgetting pill that could make our spouses forget all the times we deflected our own sins by blaming them instead? If only there was a magic eraser for the mind that would make our coworkers forget all of our gossip and petty backstabbing. If only we could banish from our own memory the sins we’re most ashamed of, those messed up situations where we would give anything for a chance to go back and do things differently.
God gives us no magic forgetting pill. Instead He gives us something infinitely better. He pays for our sins Himself. Instead of just supernaturally zapping your sins from memory, Jesus endured the much more difficult, excruciating, painstaking process of standing firm in every area of life where we’ve fallen. Then he felt the rough wood of a cross. A magical pill to make God forget our sin would’ve been too easy. Jesus shed his blood and gave his last breath. That’s why God is willing to forget our sins, to treat them as if they never existed—not simply because he’s blocked them out, but because they were paid for—every single one.
And because God has forgotten our sins, one day we will live a new creation where we too will forget them. I am about to create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered. They will not come to mind. Even though I used the PKMzeta inhibitors to grab your attention in the beginning of the sermon, what our text is talking about today is SO much bigger than merely a forgetting pill. What God is talking about here is a totally different existence for us than the one who currently know. We’re talking about a complete redo of Genesis 1. Only this time there will be no Genesis 3. In other words, this new creation will be Eden without the serpent, without the sin, without the shame.
Those are the former things. Sin and all its aftershocks—they will quite simply not be there in the new heavens and new earth. That was illustrated in a bunch of different ways in Isaiah 65. Then they will build houses and live in them. They will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. Isaiah’s time was marked by his people’s enslavement and captivity. Babylonian bullies came in and took the life they’d worked hard to build. That’s why God says in this new creation, They will not build a house and have another person live in it. They will not plant and have another person eat the crop. Here…someone might come and take your house. There…no one will take what is yours.
One more example of the figurative language used to contrast, to show how outrageously different that life will be from this life. There will never again be an infant there who lives for only a few days, or an elderly man who does not fill out all his days, for one who dies at a hundred will be considered a young man, and one who fails to attain the age of one hundred will be regarded as cursed. Here, if a person dies at 100, we say, “He lived a full, rich life.” There a person who would die at 100 would be considered as getting “short changed”—that is, if dying there were even possible in the first place. That’s how different it’s going to be.
The word on Saints Triumphant Sunday, isn’t telling us anything we haven’t heard before. Duh, there’s going to be a heaven, right? We already knew that. But so often, the time we spend here isn’t necessarily about introducing new insights, but about sharing needed reminders of things that we so easily forget.
It’s easy to forget that there are better times coming because the demands, the uncertainty, the anxiety of this life can be so intimidating and right in front of our face. So we need to hear our God say “Watch this!”
It’s easy to forget that faith will be rewarded because so often we seem to call out and hear nothing in response, so often we seek to do right and feel only turmoil in response. So we need to hear our God say, “Watch this!”
It’s easy to forget that God is in control because so often our lives seem out of control. So we need to hear our God say “Watch this!” And then watch with hopeful anticipation of what He’ll do next, for the day when he will say, “Let there be” a second time, for the day when this tear stained world will be forgotten and we will finally and forever be home. Amen.