My church just celebrated its 100th anniversary. Surely something to celebrate! But I wonder whether to celebrate it the way a person might celebrate a 100th birthday or the way we celebrate an infant’s first birthday. From the perspective of a lifetime, 100 years is a long time. Yet in the broad spectrum of history, 100 years seems short. We must also consider what the apostle Peter tells us: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Pet. 3:8). If that is the case, celebrating our 100th anniversary is like celebrating the fact that we made it almost three hours into the new day.
Perspective is what we need. Psalm 90:12 has us pray, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” This is advice we need as individuals but also for us as a church. What does it mean to number our days that we might have wisdom to see clearly and move forward confidently?
On the one hand, we number our days as long. We look back at 100 years and thank God for his faithfulness over this long stretch. Itisa long time. During those years, much has happened to celebrate. Many people have passed through these doors, people we remember fondly. Faithful service by many saints has preserved God’s witness in this community. Not to recognize this long stretch would be to take for granted the dedicated labor by those who have gone before us and prevent us from learning from that great cloud of witnesses. More importantly, to not recognize this long stretch would be to take for granted God’s gracious provision. How many churches make it to 100 years? Not all. Indeed, not many. We must ask, why us? Our history has its share of failures, divisions, and disobedience. It is all about God’s grace in preserving and maintaining a witness. We number our days as long in order to remember all this.
But we also must number our days as short. A 100-year-old man celebrates his birthday knowing that his time on earth is nearly spent. We must not celebrate in that way. We have many years behind us, but we pray for as many ahead—perhaps more. With this perspective, we celebrate like a young person heading into the prime of life: with optimism, with energy, and with strength to persevere. By God’s strength and leading, we tackle the challenges of a new day with God’s creative love and grace. We recognize that each generation must face new challenges, and so we are not afraid of the new paths God will lead us down. We must see ourselves as people of the Holy Spirit, a Spirit that renews, enlivens, and that reminds us that in the grand scheme of eternity, we are all just babes. We number our days as short to remember all this.
With this wisdom, we move forward confidently, seeing God’s faithfulness in the past that teaches us to trust him in the unknown future. We don’t know where we’re going, but looking back, we can’t fully explain how we got here either.
But here we are, safely preserved in Christ. Because of this we proclaim from one generation to another the Lord’s abundant goodness. He is faithful. He is gracious. He is loving. He is powerful. With this God within us, who could stand against us? “Teach us, O God, to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Praise be to God!
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Don’t miss this week’s must-read articles:
- Tell A Better Story
- ‘Rebirth’ for a Wisconsin Church
- Book review: A Church Called Tov, by Laura Barringer and Scot McKnight