I was driving home yesterday after visiting my nuns at the Motherhouse and had to do a (legal) U-turn to go back and snap this picture! There's a church with a big sign in front that says, "CHURCH THE WAY IT USED TO BE".
I have no idea what they intend by this sign nor what their church life is like, but it got me thinking about how I'd feel if this was planted in front of my own church.
There's part of me that is always geeked about returning to the heart of the Gospel and re-immersing myself in the core values, teaching, and life of Jesus and the early church. I suspect however, that that is not what the sign meant. The other part of me is wary of this idea of going back to the way things used to be because a) that's a very subjective thing and b) from a more theological standpoint, we follow the God whose name is "I AM" not "I USED TO BE" (cf Exodus 3:14).
Don't get me wrong, it's easy to long for what we've had -- or, as is sometimes the case, what we've never experienced but have an idealized image of. Sometimes it is a lost love, or a time when we felt more secure or happy. In terms of church maybe it was a time when the customs were more to our liking or the issues were more straightforward or the music was better!
How do we negotiate some of this stuff so that we can be truly present to this moment, to the times in which we live, to the way the Spirit of God is active now and at the same time not lose vital pieces of our experience of Church -- and maybe also a few ancillary pieces that are particularly meaningful to us personally? And do we know the difference all the time?!
I'm continuing to ponder this picture and wonder how you think about church "the way it used to be" in relation to God's activity right here and now.
It's a rainy Monday morning here in Toledo -- perfect for pondering! :)