Thursday, July 26, 2012

Conscious of our past... living in the present... directed to the future...

In the two parishes I have served, their history begins about the time of the great mission movement in Missouri (1958-1959).  In both parishes I came along as the fourth Pastor.  The first Pastor was the mission planter who came with nothing but a few names on a piece of paper, a used car, a family, and a goal of establishing a congregation where none had existed before.  I am forever grateful for their faithfulness.  They planted and I came along years later to tend and water what the Lord began through their efforts.  They were followed by the second Pastors in these parishes -- men who did not stay long but accomplished the difficult job of shifting an identity from a man to a parish, with its own building and center in an altar, font, and pulpit.  Then came the third Pastors and both parishes found some conflict and growing pains.  Perhaps it was the times, perhaps it was the parishes themselves, perhaps it was the men -- or a combination of all three -- but they went through some struggles.  And then I showed up, the fourth to serve in Cairo, New York, and here, in Clarksville, Tennessee.

I came to an established parish with its gifts and blessings, problems and struggles.  I came to follow the Pastors who had gone before me.  I came to find a history in that place -- from people who first signed the charter that officially began this congregation to the absent members who had long ago stopped being a part of the koinonia of Word and Sacrament in this place to the people whose prayers had elected and called me to be their Pastor.  At every turn I am conscious of the fact that others came before me and that another will follow me.  Even if I serve 30 years in one place, I am but a snapshot in the longer story of God's work in and among His people.  So I build on the legacy that was prepared for me (good and bad) and another will build upon my own legacy (which I daily pray will, like John the Baptist, increase Christ and decrease me).

History is not a bad thing to remember or to contemplate every now and then.  Even Popes are temporary occupants of seat.  Luther was here and gone too quickly.  Pastors great and small find time as the great equalizer.  Christ is the constant.  I hope that all Pastors have a good sense of the past and a focus upon the legacy they leave -- and not just a preoccupation with the present moment to which we so easily succumb.  It is when we forget the past and ignore the future that we get into trouble.  More problems have been caused by those in the Church forgetting God's work in yesterday and overlooking the consequences of their words and actions today than by anything else.

I found this unique video that illustrates this sense of history and the work of the present that will become the living legacy bequeathed to the future.  This video is an unusual one. It depicts three priests singing of the history of a parish. And as they sing that history becomes present. There are men and women depicted going back to the 16th century. Sacraments are celebrated, people pray, and light candles. And gradually the people look more and more modern and then are of the present. Every parish holds the past as well as the present. For since God is present, God is past, and so God is future.  Heaven and earth may pass away, the Word of the Lord endures forever.  Blessed be the name of the Lord!

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