Asking the Right Question
“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9
Nostalgia is a particular temptation these days for those who care about the church and see the church changing in ways that can look a lot like diminishment. We hear, or find ourselves thinking, “The church is not what it once was. The church used to be stronger, more vital. The best days are behind us.” Or so nostalgia whispers in our ear.
Nostalgia can be our response to what I call “the narrative of decline.” According to this narrative, the church is not what it once was. It is in decline. We hear this narrative all the time these days, but I, for one, am weary of it. The narrative of decline not only is a boring narrative, it doesn’t draw the best from us. It invites blame: Who got us into this situation?
By contrast, we can ask, “What is God is up to in our time?” That’s a very different question. It invites our imaginations. It calls us to be faithful.
As Christians we are assured that the good old days, no matter how good, are nothing compared to what God has in store for us. Paul quotes Isaiah to remind the Corinthians, and perhaps also to remind himself: “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
So look back, yes. But lean forward. God is up to something new in our time. It is up to us to discern what that is, and to get with the program.
God, help me to look back in ways that help me move forward into the future you have prepared for us.
Martin B. Copenhaver is President of Andover Newton Theological School. His newest book is Room to Grow: Meditations on Trying to Live as a Christian.