The other day our Administrator, Jody Simmons and I were talking about St. George’s and its amazing history. Jody was talking about how the church and its leadership have functioned or not over our history. I asked him if he thought our parish family was dwelling in too much in the past. He said he don’t know, but it was worth thinking about. So, I got to thinking about it the other day while listening to some classical music. You see, my attitude is that the past should be honored when appropriate, but if we linger too much in the past, we are ignoring the present and creating hurdles for the future. Being a Dietrich Bonhoffer fan, I wondered what this German Lutheran Pastor during the Second World War wrote about living to much in the past.
As luck would have it, I found one of his quotes in a devotional titled, Seize the Day with Dietrich Bonhoffer, by Charles Ringma. The reflection for February 5th is “Not Relaying on the Past;”—Exodus 16:15-19. It begins with a Bonhoffer quote1, “I do not do something again today because it seemed to me to be to be good yesterday, but because the will of God points out this way to me today.”
The devotion’s words are: We can quite easily begin to live the Christian life out of habit. We live by the lessons of the past and draw life from experiences of yesterday. While it is important to gain wisdom from lessons of the past, the past cannot sustain the present. For the present we need new grace, inspiration and direction. Therefore, we should be thankful for all we have gained in the past, but we need to be open to new possibilities in the present. The closing thought, “Your mercies, O Lord, are new every morning.”
Why this article today? Well, I’m new to this parish and have barely been here six weeks. I am learning about you, your history, your leadership and traditions of how you worship the Lord. I want you to know that we will not always agree about how we should proceed, but I promise you this, any suggestion or idea I have will be offered with respect for the past, a vision for the future and the groundedness of the present.
I hope you’ll join me in this joint experiment known as a “new call.”
1 “No Rusty
Swords; letters, lectures and notes, 1928-1936,” by
Bonhoffer, from The Collected works of Dietrich Bonhoffer,
Volume 1, edited by Edvin H Robertson and John Bowden.