Originally posted Feb. 27, 2013, at the altar ego. Republished with permission of the author.
That’s the title of this magazine I found — Good Old Days. And see the subtitle? The Magazine that Remembers the Best.
This magazine was sitting in a building across the street from a church.
If you’ve stepped foot in a church building in the 21st century, you’ve probably heard or seen an illustration of this notion: the good old days.
In our churches, the words, “In the good old days ” normally precede one of these statements. “Remember when?” is another common one.
Here’s the thing: The church of the 1950s, or the ’60s, or the 1890s, or even the 1990s was not the absolute pinnacle of Christ’s church on earth (and neither, by the way, is the church of 2013). Exclusively harking back to a lovely bygone era is not a helpful or life-giving model for the community of faith in the here and now.
The church has always been changing, moving, growing, struggling, even dying. It’s the nature of the Christian story — it’s still going. And if we’re serious about being “made new” through the death and resurrection of Jesus, then we can’t keep trying to model our churches in the image of what they used to be.
If we, like this magazine, keep looking for “the best” in the past, and live as though it might not be coming in the future, we’re not only going to be perennially disappointed — we’re being theologically immature.
Riffing on Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, the arc of the Christian story is long, but it always bends toward the future.
OK, I feel like I need to put in a disclaimer — our tradition is very meaningful, and we need to know and appreciate where we’ve been. This is most certainly true.
But if we put half as much energy into imagining the future of the Christian movement as we do focusing on its past, I think it would be an amazing thing to see.
The Bible is the word of God, as one of my mentors reminds me, but it’s not the only thing God ever said. We need to be paying attention to what God is saying to us now, and not staring longingly into a past that is past.
Otherwise, we might miss it.
Find a link to Jason Chesnut’s the altar ego at Lutheran Blogs.