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7-22-20 A Message from The Reverend "Chuck" Alley


A Message from the Reverend Chuck Alley
Rev. Chuck Alley

Why is history important for the Church?

Let's start with some examples of those in the Bible who did not know or remember their history. Perhaps the most famous is Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus. In Exodus he is described as the new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph (Exodus 1:8). What not knowing Joseph meant is that the new Pharaoh did not know the history of how the Hebrews through Joseph saved Egypt from a world wide famine which resulted in an increase in Egypt's power, wealth, and influence. As a result, he saw the Hebrews as a threat and oppressed them, to the point of genocide (Exodus 1:22). That certainly did not end well for Pharaoh.

Israel was also often forgetful of her history. The books of Judges, Kings, and Chronicles are a testament to forgetfulness. The Prophet Ahijah said of the great King Solomon, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, "See, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon...This is because he has  forsaken me, worshiped Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and has not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, as his father David did" (1 Kings 11:31, 33). What Solomon had forgotten were the requirements of the promise God made with Israel through Moses (Deut. 6:13-25). The result was the violent division of Israel after the death of Solomon.

Then there is the letter to the church in Sardis found in Revelation 3. Jesus sees them as dead because they have not remembered what they had received and have not obeyed his commands. If they do not repent, he will come unannounced, and they will truly be dead (3:3).

Although the history of great men and women, wars and events, and successes and failures are important in order to understand our present moment in the world, their lessons are critical for only a particular perspective. With the changing winds of secular culture, what was seen as foundational to one segment of society may not be valued by another segment. As the saying goes, "History is written by the winners."

The Church, however, is different. Remembering our history is more than veneration of past worthies or accomplishments. The important history of the Church is the history of God's acts in the world. Our history is always contemporary because it is the record of a living and eternal God. The history of God's acts reveals his will and his nature. Without a knowledge of our history, we cannot know who we are worshiping or why. And, as the negative examples above demonstrate, if we forget our history, we will end up worshiping something other than God. That has never been a winning strategy.

William A. "Bill" Ross
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