One commentator described the church as the only organisation he knew which went forward by looking through the rear-view mirror. It is a natural inclination of many to hearken back to the “good old days”, when life was simpler, and challenges were more easily overcome. Some have suggested that our current Prime Minister is one of those whose memories of yesteryear drive him forward.
The only difficulty with such an approach is that the problems of yesteryear are not the challenges of the present, nor necessarily of tomorrow. By moving forward looking backwards, we risk colliding with the problems of our time, and coming off worse for wear.
What sort of world are we moving into? Where and how does the love of Christ need to be shown today? How do we need to shape the community of the church to better respond to the needs of the present and the future?
Faith, by definition, looks both forwards and backwards. We look back to the life, death and resurrection of Christ as evidence of God’s work in the world and the foundation of our faith. But we also look forward to the consummation of that work, to the continuing expression of God’s presence in our time and in the years to come. In every generation the church has needed to adapt to changing circumstances. With the rate of change increasing, there is a consequent call upon the church to be more open to the future - to winds of the Spirit - and move with the flow of where God might take us tomorrow.
Just as it is a far distant world from the immediate post-war setting, so in the next 10 years we may look back on this time as something completely foreign.
Holding on to Christ, then, is to take a journey through time, from the partly-known into the mostly-unknown; from faith to faith. Thus we are called not to look into the rear-view mirror, but to look only to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. The people of tomorrow need nothing less than the people of God to respond to the issues of their time, just as the world around us expects today.
May 30, 1999