Pastor Lee Harder from St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bulverde, Texas here to visit with you for another week.
This week’s blog is taken from the mission theme that guided Walt Disney all his years — Keep Moving Forward. I found myself caught between a huge helping of nostalgia and preparing to deliver two small group presentations on addressing the needs of small churches for pastors to serve in the future. I got to remembering years gone by and briefly wishing . . . you know, wishing to relive some of those years.
First, I had the chance to pick up one of those NES Mini Classic game consoles with 30 built in games. If you didn’t have kids growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, you have no clue as to what I’m talking about. It’s video games, the originals. Playing those old games we used to play with the kids brought back some fond memories. Right now, even as I am writing this blog at home, Karen is playing Kid Icarus and before that Donkey Kong. I recall we used to be better at it than we appear to be presently. The hand-eye coordination just isn’t what it used to be. (And for the record, we are still gamers, playing Skyrim and the Lego games on X-box One among others.)
Second, before writing this week’s blog, I checked my mail. Low and behold, there was a letter of invitation asking us to be a part of my previous congregation’s 50th anniversary up in Minnesota. It’s been 50 years since the church changed it’s name to Our Savior’s after merging with another church in the town of Lamberton. It was surprising because the night before a good friend from those days called to check up on us and let us know about the upcoming anniversary. The timing makes it impossible to go, but it made me think of all those years (22 of them) serving Our Savior’s. I hope their celebration is a good one with old relationships renewed.
One can’t help but think of the good times and wonder, “Wouldn’t it be nice to go back?” My answer to that is “Not really.” Remembering the good old days with family and friends is a warm fuzzy, like a comfortable favorite chair at the end of a long day or a blanket and fire on a chilly night. They are fond memories and even the not so fond ones have softened with the passage of time. Yes, it’s good to remember and renew, but return? I don’t think so. There are too many tomorrows to come yet.
I believe God wants us to use the past and learn important lessons from it that will enrich us for today. That’s why I fail to understand those scholars in the church who have the opinion that the Old Testament of Scripture has nothing to say to us in the “modern” church. They are merely stories, fictions, like the faery tales we tell little children, fit only for Sunday school faith. Really? Useless? I’ve heard dumb before, but that’s using and abusing the God given right to be stupid in the extreme. It’s true that God doesn’t want us to wallow in the past. I truly believe He desires for us to focus ourselves and our energies on the future, but to take the lessons of the past as guides for our tomorrows. He’s got plans for our future and that means moving forward eagerly by His side to whatever lies ahead.
Case in point, this last weekend of July has me addressing a few breakout sessions at a Texas gathering of Lutheran churches. The topic is how to help small congregations get pastors to serve them in an atmosphere of diminishing numbers available. More and more pastors and priests are retiring and fewer are entering into the ministry to fill this role. When one adds these frightening stats to the changing religious scene in our nation and the Christian church frightening is transformed into downright scary.
We need to find ways to rise to the challenges we are facing in the world while maintaining the absolute truths of God’s Word as the ultimate guide for our living. God’s goal for His church is still that we go forth into the world and make it fit His image of what is good and right and not surrender the church so it will fit the world’s view of how things should be.
Remembering yesterday is nice and even desirable because it keeps us in touch with our roots. However, as believers and disciples, we are to be about building for the future. The nostalgic moments are a good thing, but there’s still a lot of work to do before us. There are new memories to make.
And those are my thoughts. God bless.
Pastor Lee R. Harder