When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord , who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. – Deuteronomy 6:10-12
Wells you did not dig…vineyards and olives you did not plant. Sounds like the Israelites had a very good inheritance of many things they did not build or plant in the Promised Land. God reminds the Israelites that they should eat and be satisfied, but they need to be careful and remember God. How often do we inherit wells we did not dig? I think one of the most obvious examples of this in the Christian community is when we benefit from the hard work and groundwork done by those who came before us. This groundwork can take the form of bricks and mortar in a church building, but it also applies to the spiritual and relational heritage left by others.
Part of our inheritance as Christians is a rich fabric of creeds, hymns, and writings which we did not “build” or “plant” yet we can partake of them and be satisfied….or not. Many newer Christian churches strive to be culturally relevant and “hip” in order to reach out to God-seekers who have not grown up going to church. These churches are very important and form a necessary part of the Christian ecosystem (I attend one myself). Sometimes in an effort to be modern and relevant they jettison the hymns, creeds, and other spiritual inheritance we share as Christians. Other churches hold tight to tradition and refuse to reach out to spiritually curious God-seekers. Then there is a middle ground where traditional hymns and creeds are transmogrified into more modern versions.
For example, one of my favorite song writers and singers is Rich Mullins. Unfortunately he was killed in an auto accident many years ago, but he took the Apostle’s Creed and put it to music in a song called Creed. He created an amazing song that was more palatable for many Christians, especially new ones like I was when I first heard it. There are those who think he took something away from the creed by putting it to music the way he did…I humbly disagree. Another of my favorite songs is Amazing Grace, originally a poem written for a sermon in 1773 by John Newton, and published as a song in 1779.
There is room in the Christian ecosystem for a range of styles and forms so that all can find the niche that God has prepared for them. At a previous church they mixed old and new styles and forms together to serve a congregation of mixed ages and preferences. This worked to a point and had the advantage of requiring members of the church to experience ways of worship that were not their preference. I think this bred healthy discussion and conflict about what it means to worship and what, or more correctly Who, motivated many of those who came before us to create the creeds and hymns.
Prayer: God help us to appreciate the rich inheritance we have as Christians and the many forms it takes.