One day after a lesson on church history, a youth from our community said: “Robert, you like really old stuff a lot, don’t you?” I replied, “The older, the better.”
See, for me, when it comes to cultivating a spiritual life or a religious practice, I think that older is usually better.
I believe the practices and disciplines we’ve inherited from the past have some spiritual truth embedded within them which is timeless and carries with it the ability to speak across generations. This is why tradition matters to me as a pastor at simple church and which is why our worship gatherings are pretty darn traditional and old fashioned. It’s because we believe that we don’t have to invent it all ourselves, it’s not up to us to forge some new way of being in relationship with God. Our living generation is not THAT important in the grand scheme of things.
In fact, it’s probably more often the case that we shouldn’t even try, because I don’t know about you, but if it were up to me figure out how to cultivate a spiritual life my spiritual practice would be pretty self-focused. If left to my own devices and operating as a religious free agent, I’d probably self-select a ton of spiritual practices that are all about filling me up and giving me a sense of well-being in the world. I definitely wouldn’t choose to give away 10 % of my money or practice regular confession, but, the truth is, I desperately need these practices for God to help save me from myself.
Existing as part of a historical tradition enables us to fit ourselves into a larger, more mysterious and wondrous worldview. In other words, it allows us to fit our story into God’s story of grace and hope.
Being spiritual and religious is an exercise in humility and trust. Humility in believing that I am not innovative enough to make it all up from scratch and trust in believing that there is something of God at work underneath all these old fashioned traditional practices which is powerful enough to open our hearts to be brought into alignment with God’s heart, which beats steadily and timelessly for the healing and restoration of the whole world.