Do you cry over baby photos?
I remember this occasion, looking at a photo of my lovely little boy aged three and then comparing him with this strange stroppy alien of 17 who seems to glide through my house exuding a fragance of malevolence. Oh God! I cried. Give me my little boy back. To which foolishness, I sensed that God was saying: No, but I’ll give you a man back in just a little while.
Things change, don’t they? And if the church is a family, rather than an organisation, then by definition, it continually alters its locality and form.
Paul calls it “the whole church, the whole family in heaven and earth.” So, then, those who were on earth, and are now in heaven, are yet members of the same family still. Those who had their home here, now have it there.
History is so interesting in this regard: it shows the various stages of one family. Imagine being a responsible Jew when Christianity first entered the world. Everything that you held dear would seem to be falling apart. Imagine seeing the Pharisees and Sadduccees denounced as hypocrites. Imagine the Temple itself being destroyed and wonderful young Jewish teachers like Saul/ Paul turning traitor as it seemed….
Maybe the same thing is happening in our generation. Institutions pass, churches alter, old forms change and high-minded and good folk cling to these as if they were the only things by which God could regenerate the world.
The public perception of Christianity (think, for a start, of Rowan Atkinson’s portrayal of vicars over the years) appears to be effete and worn out, slightly ridiculous. Everything seems to be going wrong. It’s not like it used to be. But that’s like crying over a baby photo. Of course, the guy’s changed! All things change, all things outward change and alter; but the God of the Church lives on. The Church of God remains under fresh forms the one, holy, entire family in heaven and earth.