Ancient paths

"This is what the LORD says:  'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.'"  Jeremiah 6:16

I got to travel home on holiday this last week.  For me, I truly consider home to be wherever my wife and boys are, but if you had to make it a geographical location then I might concede that Atlanta would be what most may call my home.

It's fun to go there and visit, but it sure brings back some memories and rattles my sentimentality at times.  Some things and places I recognize, some it takes me a while to recognize - while others are so different that I have to literally imagine the landscape and surroundings to have it make sense.  Sandy Plains road looks so different that I nearly did not recognize the place I grew up playing baseball.  There were so many "markers" on the journey to the baseball field from my youth that were now gone, so it was somewhat disorienting.  Fortunately, I got my bearings.

Another place of great memories was the back of Kincaid elementary school.  Just walking distance from my house, we used to play an infinite number of creative and cost effective games back in the giant back yard of the school.  Home run derby, football, baseball, track and field, and spotlight tag were some of the perennial favorites.  But when I get back to that yard at the school - the yard that is surrounded by acres of woods on three sides - I can't help but think of the war games we used to play.  So, with my kids in tow this past week, I headed for the woods to see if the paths that I used to run were there.  They didn't quite look the same, but they were there.  Some overgrown a little, others slightly hidden - but all still there.  I could actually run those paths and remember where to turn and what came next from my childhood, and it didn't disappoint - though it looked a lot different.  And therein was the lesson for me.

There is a lot of debate [arguing] about a variety of ways that churches choose to operate.  What version of the Bible can one use, what style of music should be played, how many times Communion should be offered, what style of dress is appropriate, should there be a flag in the place of worship, can women serve Communion or pray, etc. ad infinitum.  Most of the debates are secondary issues - not ones that stand at the fore of debate worthy.  We need energy in other places than our navel (where we tend to be gazing most of the time these things are discussed).  And most of these type of issues stem from the idea that whatever has preceded now is what is right - the "ancient paths" so to speak.  "We have always done it that way" is usually the battle cry of the Ancient Path contingent. 

But here is where we miss it.  The Ancient Paths have changed.  Not fundamentally mind you, it is still the same path - it just looks different.  Sometimes it looks the same - untouched by time.  Other times, it might take a moment to recognize but, alas, there it is.  While others sometimes require all of our imagination because they look so different.  And I would offer that this is not a bad thing - it is good.  God made a changing world.  God made a changing humanity.  And the Creator God will always be, by nature, creative - so that means that the paths we take to accomplish His purposes will look different even though our feet are walking on the same ground of those who preceded us.  It is not about trampling them, it is about walking in, or near, their footsteps.  Interestingly, it is the same thing that was done by the previous generation to the generation that preceded them. 

My prayer is that the forms of the paths, whatever they look like, won't be the primary issue.  The issue is whether or not we stay faithful to the ancient path itself.  Jesus is Lord - period.  The Church is to exist for the mission of every man, woman, and child hearing, seeing, and living the good news of Christ - period.  God's Word is alive - period.  Jesus is the only means of salvation for humanity - period. 

There are more to be sure, but let's try to stay on this path.  It may look different as we travel down it and explain it to others, but, alas, there it is.