Monday, March 08, 2010

Remember the Past and Move On

(Linda and I, 1973)

I remember what, for me, were "the good old days." Linda and I have had plenty of them! Actually, I think she remembers the good old days better than I, since I cannot now even remember where I left my car keys.

I can tend to distort the good old days, sometimes putting a more positive spin on them then was really there. Or, conversely, spinning the past in a negative way, making it look worse than it actually was.

I can remember a lot of people from my past. People in my youth group when I was youth pastor at Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rockford, Illinois. People of First Baptist Church, Joliet, Illinois. The many students we came to know and love when I was campus pastor of the Baptist Student Center at Michigan State University. So many good people, so many real Jesus-followers! For Linda and I, these people, and all that God did through them and us, define the meaning of "the good old days." When I think of them (which I may do after I find my keys), the response for me is, "Thank you, God, for those people and for your Kingdom manifested in and through them."

When thanksgiving time is done, it's time to move on. Like at a meal, we thank God, then we eat. Since I'm always hungry, I'm saying thanks a lot these days. But when it comes to meals it's all about the food that's on the table. The memory of past meals... I rarely think of them. I would find something odd if Linda and I spent the bulk of our time reflecting on great meals we have eaten. When a person is hungry memory is not helpful.

So it is with real followers of Jesus. I desire God - now. I need to follow God - now. When we desire God now and follow God now he mostly does not take us into a "hall of memories" where we talk about how good or bad things used to be. The Kingdom of God is not a photo album, but is on set and filming now. That's what I want to be part of.

But John, remember how it used to be back in the 70s? You had long hair (you had hair!), you wore bell bottoms so big you could hang-glide with them on, burgers were 30 cents, the "mullet" was coming in, you were young then, the "Jesus Movement" was happening! Why can't today be just like back then? For many reasons, some of them obvious (the "mullet" & b-bottoms, e.g.), I never feel I want to go back to the past, not even to be younger. When you are part of a movement you don't feel this way. If people begin to feel this way, then the movement has stalled, and that's not good. When memory is all there is the movement has ossified into an institution.

Israel was a "remembering culture." But the purpose of the remembering was to fuel and empower the present movement. Jesus tells his followers to "do this in remembrance of me" in regard to the bread and the wine. This remembering is not for the sake of being nostalgic. Rather, it's a battle cry, like "Remember the Alamo," or "Remember the Holocaust." For Jesus followers the battle cry is, "Remember the Cross!" This kind of remembering propels us into the future, now.

Thank God for what he has done for you, in you, and through you.

Follow Jesus today. Make more kingdom memories now.