Past, Present and Future

By Not Known

Christianity is essentially an historic faith. Some world views have a mainly cyclical sense of time, but ours is linear. Thus we see a story line where the present is shaped by the past and lived in the hope of the future.

This is true for us as a church. On our anniversary we have a sense of gratitude for the past and a consciousness of how the Lord has protected, provided, blessed and used the women and men of this church since October 31st 1856. It is folly to forget our past and thus be condemned to repeat its errors.

But it is also folly to be ruled by the past. Our calling is to build on the past by faithfulness in the present as we adapt the changing circumstances in our witness to the changeless gospel. In this we always look, and always move forward with an eye to God’s future.

The past, present and future of the church takes its place within the broad flow of redemption’s story. For Christians, this is measured by the end-markers of the first creation and the re-creation when Jesus returns. This story is punctuated mid-point by the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

This sense of redemption’s story gives our sense of ‘when’ we are. It is our privilege to live in the last era after the reality of forgiveness and power for life through the new covenant of Christ and his Spirit.  The technical term for this is that God’s kingdom has been, and is, inaugurated in Jesus.

However, the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus are not the end of the story. Thus we await the kingdom’s consummation in the Lord’s return. This future hope should shape life and witness now.

We catch a glimpse of how the future invades the present in today’s passage (2 Tim 4:1-8).  At one level it’s a very ‘present’ passage in which one Christian leader urges his successor to keep the work going and gives instructions as to the ‘how to’.  It’s a timely and orderly handover.

However, this present is shaped by the future (vv1&8). The up-and-coming leader is to act in the light of Christ’s coming, his judgement and his kingdom.  This gives a sense of urgency and importance, for our faith and witness are on an eternal horizon. On the other hand, the departing leader has the immense reassurance that it has not all been in vain – God’s crown awaits.

Let us neither ignore the past nor be ruled by it. Let us be faithful in the present but not trapped by it. Let us be conscious of God’s eternal future and work towards it.

David Burke