Summary: When God is involved, the future is always better than the past.
Have you ever felt nostalgic for the good old days? Have you ever experienced a longing and yearning for the way things use to be?
I remember once visiting in a home of a family with a young child. The parents of this young boy had just converted his room from being that of a toddler to that of a young child. Everything had changed. Old toys furnishings were removed to make room for the new. The crib had been dismantled and replaced by a child’s bed. The walls were painted a new color and new curtains had been hung by the window.
"What do you think of your new room?" I asked. With a tone of dismay in his voice, the young boy said firmly, "I liked the way my rooms use to be."
We know how this young man felt. In a fast paced, every changing world such as the one in which we live, we often find ourselves saying and feeling the same kind of thing.
"I liked the way society USE TO BE, before the advent of cable television and satellite TV."
"I liked the way my country USE TO BE, when political debate had a more polite and civil tone."
"I like the way it USE TO BE, when the Red Sox lost & the Yankees played in the World Series."
Yes, those were the good old days! What makes you feel nostalgic?
The 90’s – Stamps $0.28; Bread $1.42; Milk $2.30; Gas $1.11
Events: Soviet Union Collapse; Waco Disaster, OJ, Cloned Sheep, Coumbine
Top Movies: Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, Independence Day, Titantic, Saving Private Ryan, Stars Wars – The Phantom Menace
Top Music: November Rain, No Rain, Ice Ice Baby
The 80’s – Stamps $0.22; Bread $0.60; Milk $1.70; Gas $1.19
Events: The Challenger Explodes, Iran-Contra Scandel, The CD, Berlin Wall
Top Movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, Star Wars – Return of Jedi, Ghost Busters, Batman, Indiana Jones & the Lat Crusade (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)
Top Songs: Take on Me, Every Breath You Take, Tainted Love
The 70’s – Stamps $0.13; Bread $0.25; Milk $1.40; Gas $0.60
Events: Nixon Resigns; Bicentennial; Jonestown Massacre, Iran Hostage Crisis
Top Movies: Jaws, Star Wars, The Godfather, The Exorcist, Grease, Rocky
Top Songs: Stairway To Heaven, Hotel California, Bohemian Rhapsody,
I know that some of you would like to go back even further – but I don’t go back much further, so we will have to stop with the 70’s.
Those were the good old days. That is the way things USE TO BE.
We have those feelings of nostalgia about many things: politics, social norms, entertainment, and the economy. We get homesick for places, people, and times. We all carry with us some sentimental and romanticized notions about the way things USE TO BE.
We have those notions about the church, too.
The church’s place in society today certainly makes many of us feel a bit nostalgic. We remember a day when CHURCH counted for something in this country. Its sanctuaries and meeting halls were filled to capacity each week. Its buildings dominated every urban view. Its preachers were among the most noted figures in the populace - even the New York Times featured reviews of sermons from great pulpits. The missions of mercy in many congregations were known throughout the world. Its ethics guided societal customs and norms. Its youth ministries had a formative impact on the lives of entire generations. That is the way things USE TO BE.
This is not a big news flash, but times have changed. There are certainly many reasons to be disappointed with the church these days. The glory of the church often seems a thing of the past. Too often, the church appears (even in our own eyes) to be insignificant and helpless. Its membership is melting away. Controversy and dissent have torn it to pieces. It has moved from bold missions to simple maintenance; from advancing the kingdom to struggling to just get by; from holding out a message of hope for the world to simply holding on for dear life in the world.
It is not that we are not trying, we are. It is not that the hearts of many in the church are not in the right place, they are. The problem is that no matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, we just cannot seem to recapture the glory of the good old days.
Maybe that is the problem. Maybe we are trying to recapture something of the past, rather than following God’s boldly into a brand new day.
What we are facing is not unlike that which confronted the people of Israel during the days of the Prophet Haggai as the temple was being rebuilt.
The date for the writing of this text is given exactly: October 17, 520 B.C. The people have returned from their exile in Babylonia with permission from Darius I, King of Persia. They were allowed to select their own governor, Zerubabbel. They were also allowed to select their own high priest, Joshua the son of Zehozadak. Still, there were struggling to get by as they were desperately poor. Drought has stunted their crops and brought widespread hunger. Inflation has eaten into their meager earnings. The city of Jerusalem lay mostly in ruins. It all seemed so hopeless. Why bother? They should just lie down next to the ruins of the temple and wait for the end to come.