My parents are Christians, as are their parents and (I believe) their grandparents. As far as I know, our family has been worshipping the Christian God since long before they arrived in America, which for the Haltiwanger side is back in the 1700s.
I love singing old hymns and thinking that these are the same words to the same songs that my ancestors would have sung hundreds of years ago. I love traditional liturgy for the same reason: these words and creeds have been the prayers of the people of God for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years.
The fact that things have always been one way does not mean that it is the correct or best way: look at slavery, women’s rights, and any number of other issues on which humanity has changed its stance. But perhaps the tradition should give us pause to look with wonder on the history of our faith and of our God.
While I cannot fathom eternity, I can imagine my ancestors reciting the Lord’s Prayer hundreds of years ago and it is incredible to comprehend.
As I imagine it, nearly everything else has changed. The accents (perhaps the language), the dress, the church building, the role of women, family size, racial diversity of the church, whether they stood or sat or kneeled… These have all changed. But the words are still the same: as unchanging as God himself.
The rich history and tradition of the church is rife with conflict and embarrassments (Crusades, anyone?) but it is also something I cling to in the midst of doubts and questions. These words, this Bible, they have sustained intelligent, questioning, doubtful, faithful Christians for thousands of years.
Surely they have the power to sustain me as well.
Photo by John Kroll via Flickr.