Earlier this week a dear friend entered my office with a big plastic bag filled with, well, I had no idea what, and an even bigger smile. I could tell that he was dying to unveil some treasure that I might find interesting and significant. He was right. In time I’ll reveal more about the contents, but today, let me talk about the context of this one of a kind artifact, chocked full of photographs and memories from the annals of old FBC.
The surest way to insure a church’s march to irrelevance is to live in its past, allowing the nostalgia of a bygone age the power to both lament and limit its present and future. I am even more convinced that the easiest way to lose one’s way on the path pilgrim’s to progress is to forget the people and the passion that have helped us “hither by thy help to come.” Tradition and history make terrible masters, but the most wonderful of servants.
In the past few weeks our congregation has received no less than three inheritances from the estates of saints’ deep roots in this church. The gifts registered three hundred thousand dollars and change from souls with a combined two centuries of believing and belonging in this place. Each left this world determined that even death would not prevent their ongoing stewardship and unending support of God’s kingdom work through FBC. For these people, each history and each heart, I am touched and thankful.
We pastors called to lead people into new eras of ministry often feel that heritage and hope are hopelessly at odds with one other. True confession; as a green pastor in green pastures, I likely acted if that was a singular truth. But time has taught me that there is little as beautiful and powerful as a fellowship that knows its past as a foundation and not an anchor; its future as a joy, and not a burden, and acts accordingly. * That was certainly the heart and mindset of these generous investors in this church’s future. I would say “God bless them all,” but I know He already has. They have been blessed, not only for these gifts, but by them as well. “Well done, good and faithful servants. Enter now into the joy of the Master,“ I hear God is given to say. I’m certain He did for these who were and have. We thank God for them all.
*I am indebted to the incomparable Grady Nutt for the imagery in this phrase.