In a time when technology is advancing exponentially and life seems to move quicker by the day, there is a simultaneous thirst for the past. The proliferation of the ancestry industry is sustained by the number of people desiring to know their roots. Even historians such as Henry Louis Gates have television programs documenting celebrity’s ancestral past. In conjunction with this desire is an attempt to replicate a benign version of ancestral and tribal worship. As much as we may be tempted to mock those seeking ancient spiritualism that provides no salvation, we can at the very least recognize the hunger people have for something rooted, time tested, and deep. Instead of mocking, though, we can offer exactly what they are looking for, which also provides the salvation they so desperately need.
In Jesus’ prayer found in John 17, His final petition centers on the request that the disciples would “all by one” (John 17:21). Jesus begins this petition stating that he is not only praying for His twelve disciples but “for those who would believe in me through their word” (17:20). Jesus here is including every member of God’s covenant family throughout all generations. And no matter what age a Christian lives in, they are grounded in the teachings of the apostles concerning the Christ. In other words, there is a connection and oneness within the Christian faith that spans time. The very thing that people seek is found in the gospel and in the Church.
So then, what do we have to offer? (1) We have a rooted set of beliefs passed down from the apostles. We read the same texts that our fathers read. The church for millennia has quoted the summary of those texts in creeds such as the Apostle’s Creed. Our beliefs are not “swayed by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). (2) We have ancient, rooted ethics. It is interesting that in an age of progression, much looks like regression. When we think of the sexual revolution, the church has been consistent in its definition of marriage, the beautiful complementary nature of men and women, and the protection of children. As I have heard one pastor state: “who else consistently tells men to love and be faithful to their one wife, and care for their children.” (3) We have a historic liturgy. Liturgy is not merely the order of a Sunday service, but the transformative rhythm of life. The church offers the world a consistent day of rest, as well as praise, confession, pardon, and prayer; the very things the world attempts to replicate with meditation, self-forgiveness, self-affirmation, and instragammable vacations. And (4), the church is a historical family. Our family tree reaches back to our elder brother, Jesus Christ, and to all the saints prior to His incarnation. In a world of disconnected families, the church offers brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers a hundredfold (Matthew 19:29), both locally and ancestrally.
May we as God’s church locally use this opportunity to offer a compelling oneness with our ancestors. Not a oneness that attempts to replicate paganism, but one that provides salvation through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.