Monuments and Mausoleums

Posted: April 16, 2013 in Church, Future, God
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Man jump

Today I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and why the Pharisees who were there couldn’t see what God was doing, though many of Jesus’ disciples knew exactly what was going on.  What made the Pharisees so blind to God’s moving?

I suspect there were multiple reasons.  Fear was certainly one; they were probably worried about what the Romans would do to them if they acknowledged Jesus as the long-awaited King.

Hypocrisy is second option; perhaps some of them were more interested in appearing to long for God to move than for Him to actually do so and thus disrupt their comfortable little religion.

But I think another contributor to their blindness was what I sometimes call a crippling nostalgia. The Pharisees, perhaps more than any other group in Israel in those days, were prone to looking backwards rather than forwards.  They tended to look at how God had moved in the past and assume that when He moved again it would be in precisely the same way.

But this Jesus was something new.  He knew the Scriptures, sure, but he seemed terribly irreverent about them, at least from the Pharisees’ perspective.  He wouldn’t obey the rules about the Sabbath they had set up to make sure people were safely pious.  He hung out with people whose very existence threatened to pollute their rigid understanding of holiness.  This Jesus was, in short, a radical…and the Pharisees didn’t like radicals.  They wanted a return to the good old days when God had moved in ways that were both comfortable and familiar.

In short, the Pharisees were so fixated on how God had moved in the past that they couldn’t see what He was doing now.  That’s what I mean by a crippling nostalgia; a fixation on the past that keeps us from moving confidently into the future.

Too many of our churches today struggle to see God moving for the same reason.  I cannot tell you how many churches I have visited over the years that are fixated on what God has done in their past, yet seem to be blind to what God is doing now.  It’s terribly depressing.

I’m not saying there is no value in remembering the past, especially when it is a past in which God’s faithfulness is so evident.  On the contrary, I believe there is great value in erecting monuments that look to the past in order to find confidence for the future.  But when a place is filled with reminders of the past that stop at “remember when?” and do not challenge us to boldly trust ourselves to that same God in an as-yet unknown future, that place is not so much a monument as it is a mausoleum. Far, far too many of our churches today are more like mausoleums than monuments…and it is often a crippling nostalgia that makes them such.

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