Monday, October 09, 2006

remembering and relearning

I’m torn between two loves. Following Christ involves being torn between relevancy and being set apart, forgiving and being just, being humble and understanding how very precious we are to God. There is so much tension in Christianity that I am torn again between my love for remembering and my love for relearning.

I am in love with remembering our family history—the tradition that has gotten us where we are as a Church. I love the creeds and the rituals. I love the beauty, the symbol of stained glass windows. I reminisce on pastors who wear robes, while hymns are played on the organ. We find identity with those who have led us to this time and place. If we ignore the tradition, traveling under the banner of relevance, we have failed to honor our fathers and mothers. We cannot just pull out of “traditional” churches because church is old and we are “emerging.” We have married into a family and it would be wrong to come into a family that has lasted 2000 years and suddenly think our job is to change tradition because it feels too “religious” or boring to us. We remember family history by joining in the activities they did—singing the songs they sung and reading the time-honored prayers. We join hands with them in adoration of the same God who has been with us throughout history. Together as a Church, both those among us and those who were among us long ago, we can worship the God of Abraham, David, Solomon, Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Fredrick Schleirmacher, Corrie Ten Boom, Karl Barth, and C.S. Lewis. He is the God who has been there all along. We have to be faithful to those who have come before us; we are not the first ones to get ourselves into this.

Every generation has a responsibility to relearn how to be the Church passed down to us through the years. Our responsibility is to discern what we should pass along and what should not pass on. There are many who have been disillusioned—tired of the same old church—while dreaming of something bigger. The Church has to change as the culture changes, because the Church is no less organic. In a new world, the church needs new definition bursting through the walls, spilling out onto the streets where the hungry and the thirsty are looking for something bigger. Our job is to evolve and if we do not then someone will force us to and it will not be pretty. Throughout church history the church has either been changed or been forced to change. The reformation was the forced change of a stagnant and corrupt church. The Pietism movement was the forced change of a church that became overly concerned with orthodoxy, rather than the concerns of the people. When we become institutionalized—more concerned with preserving our doctrines than about being the Church for the world—we have become something other than what we are supposed to be. When a good idea becomes too structuralized a proverbial wall is built. These walls needs to be revived to their original beauty found in reformation. To be a New Creation means to be continually new—continually reformed.

I wonder if Jesus felt the same tension, a guy brought up in a great tradition yet knows something has to change. How do you balance this sort of tension? Jesus sought to achieve a balance by living the tradition, but sometimes questioning and reinterpreting it. He even changed the symbolism sometimes (or maybe just added to it). He remembered and relearned, faithful to His family yet faithful to His responsibility.

How do we do both here and now? How do we emerge into the future and converge with the past at the same time? That’s the real question.

3 comments:

Dolores said...

Beautiful observations. You have answered your own questions. It can be done with just the reverence blended with reformation that you decribe. Enjoy the ride! By the way, the picture you used was priceless.

WES ELLIS said...

thanks,
I superimposed that picture myself. I'm pretty proud of it.

Mia said...

Mmmm. Good stuff. Last Sunday my choir sang at a Presbyterian church- not too ritualistic, but still there were some responsive readings and altar boys. So many of my friends were bored by the service, but I found it fascinating! A traditional service is a beautiful experience in my opinion.