Pastoral Perspectives

I was sitting in an old church admiring the furnishings when something caught my eye. Beneath the huge stained glass window that dominated the back wall was a large plaque that read: In loving memory of “Ahem”, born 1810 died 1896. From her grandchildren. I left out the family name because it’s not about them; it’s about those birth and death dates.
The person memorialized died over a 100 years ago! That means that her grandchildren were born over a hundred years ago! That’s a very old memory and it got me looking around the sanctuary. Everywhere I looked I saw memorial plaques. Virtually every object in the the church honoured or remembered somebody. Suddenly I felt discouraged. As I sat in that old church looking at all of the old furnishings dedicated to people long past and probably long forgotten by the current parishioners I felt like I was in a monument to the past rather than a place of worship of our living God.
Throughout His life Jesus loved and served and taught Jew and Gentile alike. He did so in ways that upset and disturbed the status quo. He stuck to the truth of God’s laws but made them come alive in practical ways that made a real difference in people’s lives. Jesus didn’t uphold traditions that went against the heart of God’s rules of love and justice. Jesus loved His neighbour as Himself the way that they needed to be loved and not according to tradition or the ancient ways of the priests or the whims of the lawmakers. Jesus is not the Lord of the way we’ve always done things. He is the living Saviour that speaks to us, serves us, loves us and challenges us right where we are.
As Jesus’ followers we are invited to love our neighbour right here, right now. How that love looks depends not on the traditions of the past but on the needs of today. Our churches are not to be monuments memorializing yesterday’s faithful generation but living examples of God’s love for humanity.
As I sat in that old sanctuary looking around at all the old objects, I was discouraged for a moment. But then I noticed the drums and the grand piano. There was a screen and powerpoint projector and suddenly I realized that this place was not a monument to the past but indeed a living, breathing place where God was served and worshipped not according to tradition, but according to the needs of today. It’s important to remember and honour the past, but it’s even more important to love our God and our neighbours according to their needs and as they are, right here, right now.

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