Though it is remembered in various forms, George Santayana wrote, ” Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Rachel and I preached on an application of this understanding a couple of weeks ago.
Our take was that the history of God’s people is cyclical but that it does not have to be. It is on what seems to be an eternal loop, I allege, because God’s people have, over the millenia, refused to learn some lessons.
God’s people have, over the years, been faithful in response to God for a while, only to lose focus on, and thus faith in, God’s leading.
A recent experience called to my attention that we cannot merely remember history, but that we must, in fact, learn from it.
Once upon a time I visited a church. As I was there for a worship service, I met and got to hear the preacher. Each time he referred to the church, he tagged it with the word “Historic.” Several times I heard him say, “historic so-and-so United Methodist Church….”
Once he explained briefly about why the church is historic. A lay member also thought it important to share the same story at a different time in the service.
Neither the pastor nor this layperson, nor anyone else in the service, for that matter, had much at all to say about the life of that congregation in the present.
It seemed like all of their identify was summed up in the word “historic.”
I serve a church that was founded in 1876; certainly old enough to be considered historic. I have active members who are direct descendants of the founders of the church. While these people, and the rest of us, enjoy the stories of our early days, we want these to inform the present. We want today and tomorrow to matter as much as yesterday.
I appreciate serving an historic church. I appreciate even more that we are not so caught up in being historic that we cannot focus on being the church today, or on seeking God’s guidance for how we might become the church of tomorrow.