Connected to the Past | Living in the Present | Looking to the Future
Today as I write this on Oct. 27th it is the 102 year anniversary of the founding of our Presbyterian Church in Smyrna, GA. Last week Sunday we were able to celebrate that history and heritage with our Reformation Heritage Weekend. Hopefully you were able to join us in the Lord’s faithfulness to us as a church. It was a joyous weekend.
The older I get the more I tend to reflect on life, and perhaps this is proof that I’m aging! But I take great comfort in the fact that the Lord told Israel to set up a monument (an Ebenezer) of stones so that they would remember the past. In Joshua 4 we read the reason why:
In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God. (Joshua 4:21-24)
Did you notice the reason why? They were to remember the events of the past (i.e. crossing the Jordan on dry ground) so that they would connect those event to the character of God –his power in deliverance. In other words the events of the past were to reveal the nature of God. This indeed is true in all of history and one of the great benefits of studying history (and remembering history!). Do you do this with your own personal history? As you think about your own life do you see God’s hand upon you? Do you see and remember acts of His faithfulness, mercy, grace, kindness? Or perhaps other times his loving conviction, discipline, and correction? Each of these occasions God is revealing Himself to you and proving His character. Through these events the promises of the Scriptures are being shown in your life. What an amazing reality! The God of Heaven and Earth personally involved in our life. Why would we want to forget a moment such as that? Reflection in life should bring this to mind often.
There is also another aspect to reflection and remembering that is mentioned in Joshua 4. Did you catch it? “…so that you might always fear the Lord” (4:24b). Contemplation on God’s acts and his character in the past should lead us to reflect on our life in the present – namely our obligation and duty to Him. Right theology must always lead to right practice in the Christian life. Not out of a desire for merit (for our merit is in Christ alone) but out of gratefulness to him and a desire to walk in a way that is pleasing to Him. Our reflection is not complete until it brings to mind our own life in the present and the future going forward. So whereas we do not want to live in the past there is tremendous usefulness to looking backwards and learning from it.
So what does this all mean for us as a church as we think about our past? Our past makes us think of God’s faithfulness that has allowed for a church in this area to remain for over 100 years. Makes us think of God’s grace to have many thousands pass through our doors either temporarily or as their permanent church home to be ministered by the Lord and the people of God here. Think of God’s truth that has been the bedrock of this church’s foundation for over a century and has been forever sure in midst of an ever changing world. Think of God’s provision to see us through many years of wars, recessions, depression and prosperity. Surely we could go on….
But how should all of this affect us now and as we go forward? God’s faithfulness should give us the boldness to venture out in faith just as those few souls did in 1914 in starting a work here. God’s grace should give us a desire to see that same grace and salvation in the lives of others as we witness and minister in His name. His truth should continue to be the foundation for our church and the means by which we witness and minister to the world. And His provision to us should keep us dependent upon Him as well as confident that He will provide all our needs.
In a world of instant, fast, and fleeting we have the blessing of having longevity. Let us use that to reflect our God who is never changing but is the same, yesterday, today and forever. Our connection with the past will help us in the present and looking to the future with great hope and joy.