Using our setbacks as steppingstones
September 24, 2022
The Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon used his prodigious and engaging hermeneutical skills to cap a NEXT Church National Gathering that has taken a deep look at rest and restoration.
Cannon, the senior pastor and head of staff at C.N. Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, relied on Isaiah 43:18–19 for his rousing sermon, “When God is Doing a New Thing.”
At the outset, Cannon asked worshipers to read the two verses out loud along with him. Their first take didn’t quite measure up. “Now,” Cannon told them, “I need you to read it like gas dropped down to $2 a gallon.”
“I have discovered,” Cannon said, “that the God of Creation and the universe is always doing wonderful things. The God of our existence and the God of the future is always showing up and showing out when it comes to extraordinary events and supernatural appearances.”
Only God, Cannon said, could turn defeat into victory, leftovers into a banquet and bring a community out of Covid. “That’s the God we worship, serve and honor,” he said. “Only God can speak things into existence — and give comfort when we are discomforted.”
Cannon even had a “Tweet for the Week” anyone can use: “God is more than a God of second chances. God is a God of new beginnings.”
“If we can get the context, we can get the content,” he told those in attendance at Montreat Conference Center and online. “Work with me this afternoon.”
While serving as “a mouthpiece for God,” the prophet Isaiah spoke to people “more concerned about the things that were happening in the world than they were with Almighty God,” Cannon said.
Here, Isaiah says, “forget about the former things. In my etymology, ‘forget’ means ‘stop talking about it. Stop relishing on what was then. You’ve got to forget some things.’ It’s not saying, ‘Don’t discount your experiences.’ You’ve got to have some Sankofa moments every now and then, but don’t dwell on the past. The text says we should not let the old thing become the main thing in our lives.”
“Past failures and past accomplishments stop us from going where God wants us to go,” Cannon said. “God says, ‘I’m going to give you a new kind of faith,’ one that will allow you to use your setbacks as steppingstones, a faith that tells you that every good gift comes from above.”
Cannon said a friend told him we’re in a VUCA moment, for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.
But “when you understand these terms, you need to have a response,” and here’s Cannon’s: We are in a VUCA moment, but to him VUCA stands for Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility.
And here’s Cannon’s summary of the Bible’s prophetic witness: “God gave them a Temple, and they gave God idol worship. God gave them wealth, and they used it against the poor. They gave nothing back to God, and God still loved them regardless.”
With that, he launched into the first verse and chorus of the Stylistics’ “Break Up to Make Up.”
“That’s the way God keeps coming back to us,” Cannon said. “God says, ‘I love you so much, I ain’t gonna give you the old thing. I’m gonna give you something new.’”
“God says, ‘I am doing some things new, but you’re gonna have to do some things differently,’” Cannon said. “The sanctuary with no pews makes a wonderful place for people to sleep who are homeless. That playing field is a wonderful place for public housing.”
Pulling the word “perceive” out of Isaiah 43:19, Cannon said “decree” and “declare” are possible translations.
“We Presbyterians don’t decree and declare a lot, so I will go all Pentecostal on you,” he said. “I won’t go home the same. The good news is it’s a new season, a new day. I feel this anointing flowing my way.”
“Not only do I owe it to my church community, I owe it to myself,” Cannon said. “God has been too good to me. I believe in a God who helps me see it’s a new season, a new day.”
Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon – the NEXT Church gathering
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray
God of the old and the new, the great and the small, thank you for the warmth of your love and the inspiration of your Spirit. May you continue to bring new life into your churches, that we might proclaim in a myriad of ways the wonders of your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.