The Old and the New – Where Do We Fit?

Posted: February 12, 2011 by joyousjava in Devotionals
Tags: , , , , , , ,

As young adults, we are generally always looked to for something new – a new word, a new way, an understanding of new technology.  In our Western culture, newness is valued highly (as is youthfulness), so many of us have the opportunity to be “the expert” on any number of topics prized by those around us.

Yet, it often seems like a different story when we walk through the doors of the Church.

Sometimes, though the presence of young adults in church life and leadership causes great excitement and celebration, the voices, opinions and ideas of those same young adults aren’t taken seriously.  This is especially the case when a younger leader suggests a course of action that requires change!  Suddenly chants of “we’ve always done it this way!” put us in our place and we are reminded that others built our church, others charted out her trajectory, others mapped out her ministries before we were ever on the scene (even new church starts can fall into this mode after a year or two).

These words and perspectives sound a lot like what we find at the end of this year’s General Assembly text (Deuteronomy 6:1-12):

  • 10-12 When God, your God, ushers you into the land he promised through your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give you, you’re going to walk into large, bustling cities you didn’t build, well-furnished houses you didn’t buy, come upon wells you didn’t dig, vineyards and olive orchards you didn’t plant. When you take it all in and settle down, pleased and content, make sure you don’t forget how you got there—God brought you out of slavery in Egypt. -Deuteronomy 6:10-12 (The Message)

But this text is about far more than being grateful for those who came before us.  It can be a signpost for us, simultaneously pointing towards our forbears, our selves, and our God.  It calls us to remember that others have spent their lives building and growing the faithful tradition we call Church.  Moreover, just as the Hebrew people did not find the Promised Land empty of inhabitants, when we enter God’s story it is not upon an empty page.  We’re not to slash and burn old structures to the ground – but instead to add to them, to renovate and rework when necessary while also allowing what was built before to shape our lives.

At the same time, this text reminds us to enjoy those moments worth enjoying.  We are not called to live in a state of constant apology, paralyzed by the awareness that others created many of the things we enjoy or dislike.  We are called to live and to live fully, wholly – using the gifts God has given us for the sake of Creation.  This means joyfully celebrating and utilizing the things that work, and when something needs changing (especially if that something is unjust and life-draining) then we must change it.

The glue that holds these two ways of being together is, of course, God.  When we remember that we live in a world created by God and that all gifts and achievements are made possible through God’s creative and life-sustaining power, then we live in a state of humility that enables us to value what has come before, what is, and what shall/should be.  With God at center, we cannot rightly be accused of having a sense of entitlement (an accusation lobbed so frequently at Generations X and Y).  With God at center, we can live into wholeness without chipping away at the wholeness of folks in other generations (older or younger).  With God at center, we find our place precisely where we were created to be – and from here we can tell our chapter of God’s story with great joy!

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