In 1905, Spanish-American writer George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
If you go online, you will find variations of that quote, attributed to English War-time Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. He is supposed to have said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” We know that Sir Winston Churchill did have those sentiments, but there is no evidence that he ever actually said it. In 1935, Churchill did criticize government policy noting that, “these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”
There is something of a “stepping forwards, glancing backwards” that is at the very heart of being a Christian, especially for a Christian Church that is Lutheran. As Christian people, we live in a tradition that extends back through the New Testament era to ancient Israel. Also, Lutherans are a denomination of the Christian Church with an historic Confession from the time of Dr Martin Luther and the Lutheran Reformers of the 16th century.
So we are constantly glancing backwards as we are learning how to best step forward.
Therefore, in the Lutheran Church, we look ahead to what is coming and whilst growing in our knowledge of the Scriptures and the interpretation of the Scriptures in the Lutheran Confessions. We learn how those who have gone before us have studied these writings and applied them.
This is essentially what is happening in District conversations about governance and strategic planning. We look back on our history to learn from it. We identify strengths and weaknesses. We explore how some things flourished and why some things diminish. We purposefully pass on what we have received to those who follow.
By doing this thing of “looking back”, we are actually identifying the hand of God at work. The words of one hymn of the Church taught us to sing, “Thy hand O God has guided, thy flock from age to age.”
So when we plan for the future, whether it is in our Congregational AGMs or District or Churchwide gatherings, we ask the Lord of the Church to guide us seeking his good and gracious will. As we look back with thanksgiving for God’s guiding hand in the past, we anticipate with thanksgiving the same guiding hand in the years ahead.
God bless you as you venture into 2020, trusting that the Good Shepherd will be at work in and through you.
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