One may look at this as looking ahead, but still you can look at this and see someone looking back. It’s all a matter of perspective. We don’t know if someone is leaving the tunnel or entered. It’s amazing how assumptions can catch us especially if we don’t know the circumstances of the situation. I’ve been caught in this trap and I would be almost certain that most every person that reads this may find that they have been confronted with this reality at one time or another. It may have been assumptions made by you or about you. Reality of our existence is that we are a people that are often looking back. We look back at the good times. We remember the difficulties. We are shaped by the things of our past. Our past defines how we react in situation and how we develop relationships. For good or for ill more often than not our eyes are less focused on what is in the present than what has been in the past and because of this we often are unprepared for the future.
“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”” (Luke 9:51–62, ESV)
Jesus knew what was ahead. He knew what was in the past. He knew what was in the present. Well, he’s God and that should not surprise, but the words he speaks are often difficult for us as we struggle through them. When rejected the disciples are rebuked for wanting to bring a swift end to them, but he departs from the presence of those who rejected him. For those who desire to follow he gives ominous statements and criticizes one disciple for wishing to say farewell to his loved ones. These statements give pause, at least for me.
I have felt the Holy Spirit leave a place. A part of me was like the disciples, but our Lord, Jesus Christ, knows that there are greater punishments than a swift end. Ichabod from 1 Samuel 4:21 is the name given to the son of Phineas, Eli’s son, and when defined it means, “the glory has departed.” When people reject God, he simply departs. When he departs, for those that are aware, the air changes. Unfortunately, for those that reject God know no different and go on with their lives as before. A great mind of the twentieth century by the name of Joseph Campbell defined the arrogance of man in their definition of God in his book and documentary, “The Masks of God.” The series was produced with PBS and the interviewer was Bill Moyers. In this he defines religion this way, “Ignorance is bliss. Bliss is god. Follow your bliss.” As a teenager when I first heard this it struck me and influenced me in a great way. This influence was negative at first, but now, as I have grown older, it has influenced me in how I desire to bring others out of the darkness. Joseph Campbell’s statement was and is truly a sad testament of the man and of many wonderful people I know that reject our Lord and God. The statement is one that puts one’s own intellect above that of the creator. It makes them blind to see what is right before them.
Jesus doesn’t destroy the village that rejected him for the same reason the he doesn’t strike down everyone who curses him. Hope. As long as they have breath in their lungs there is hope that the Holy Spirit will move within and reveal the Lord to them. Our Lord gives us time. Time to turn from our past and turn to him. Time to grow in the forgiveness and grace that he gives. Time for our lives to be a light to those around us. As a people, we are given new life in Christ, a new identity, a new present, and a greater tomorrow. We are called ahead not back and to look back will only guide us away from the future he desires for us.
As the Church, we are to be careful to not let the past be the definer of our future. There are great things ahead for us and, though the past may hold great things, it is important for the Church be be a banner forward. This does not mean that we allow the world to define the future, that is Christ’s role and has been set forth for us in the Word of God, which is ever a Word for the present as it is life-giving and is alive and unchanging. We can certainly learn from the past, but the past can not define the present and it will not define the future. It is a danger as many congregations look to the days when they had larger membership, a full Sunday school, and that special pastor that served in the high times. It is also a danger to look back and point to the actions of the past that “caused the church to lose.” God draws us ever forward. Our worship life is the same as we enter we “process” and as we exit the sanctuary we also “process.” We are not to “recess” but we are always moving forward into worship and into the world, the mission field.
Like to tunnel above, we may be looking back and seeing the light behind us or we may be looking forward and moving into the light before us. Unfortunately, if we are constantly looking back we may never see what glory is before us and we will most certainly miss out on what is going on in the moment surrounding us. Glory days are never past as long as we know the Lord is before us.
From A Church Rated