I am not a terribly big fan of Deepak Chopra, but I think the quote of his that we are using as the opening meditation for the bulletin this week is spot on. “I use memories, but I will not allow memories to use me.”
As we continue our journey of letting go and leaving it at the table this week, we hit an interesting topic—The Past. Certainly, there is something to be said about letting go of the hurts and the grudges of the past that have prevented us from being who God called us to be. There is even something to be said about letting go of the victories of the past that have come to cloud our understandings of the present. However, all that being said, there is certainly a need to hold in tension the memories and traditions of the past, and yet, not allowing them to completely take hold of the present.
There is perhaps no better example of how this plays out than in a church. Churches so often are shackled to the traditions of the past—“But we’ve always done it that way!” Incidentally, those are probably a pastor’s 7 least favorite words. Frankly, I think much of the decline of mainline protestant churches is completely tied to this problem. We have to be able to let go of the past in order to live into the future.
HOWEVER, the past has also been so important in telling us who we have been, where we have been, and what we have been doing. The past teaches us about how we have messed up, and how to avoid those same mistakes in the future. The past teaches us what is truly valuable and worth holding onto, and what needs to be abandoned. We need the memories of the past. Truly, we need to know more about our past in order to be healthy churches in the present and the future. There is great value in tradition.
Theologian, Jaroslav Pelikan once said, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.” The fact is, we cannot, and should not, completely let go of the past, but we cannot let it deaden us to the needs of the present. This is a tough tightrope for any of us to walk—especially when you get 200-300 members of a church walking that high wire all at once!
This Sunday we begin to celebrate Covenant’s 60th anniversary. We will have other events throughout the year, but this will be our first. Regional Presbyter Sallie Watson will be joining us for this celebration of our past as well. There is indeed so much to be thankful for in the life of this church. However, there are also things that we need to leave behind to move into the future that God has laid before us. It is a difficult tension, but a necessary tension within which we must live. So I end this reflection with a serious question that I would like you to consider in preparation for Sunday:
What things from our past must be a part of our future story, and what things do we need to let go of?
Remember to bring a symbol of something from your past to leave at the table as well!