History in the Present Tense
Past, present, and future are tied together in Christ.
History isn’t for everyone. So we assume, at least. You don’t have to talk to many people to find someone who hates history. It’s just names and dates and places. But can we really be done with history that easily?
We’re all products of history. Long before we were a twinkle in the eyes of our parents, our stories were in motion. We’re products of generations and millennia, in all sorts of ways. Before we ever took a breath, our lives were shaped in countless ways. We exist, here and now, but here and now exist only because of there and then. Perhaps this is why some of our biggest debates as a society today are about our history.
History is more than names and dates and places, although it certainly includes those. We and our world spring from more names and dates and places than we could ever count. We have been formed by innumerable names and dates and places that have never made it on a Scantron exam. We recognize this to an extent. We delight to learn something new about our ancestry, town history, or family lore. We want a connection to the past.
Do you like history? Maybe like me, as you get older, you go back and see your old neighborhood every now and then. Maybe you remember the year your team won a championship. Maybe you hear a song and suddenly you’re back, somewhere else, you, but younger and more carefree. Maybe you smell something, and you’re in a room hundreds of miles and a handful of presidents away. Maybe you remember where you were when a certain story broke. We all have history. While there are parts we wouldn’t want to relive, there are others we’d love to enjoy just one more time.
History is for everyone. This is even more true for the Christian. Christianity isn’t just a nice story. Christianity is history. Christ came in history, as people in history promised he would. He came in history and did historical things, and he established a church with history, full of men and women with histories, who made history, like their Lord. And this history, of Christ and his church, is – like all history – never really behind us.
I remember growing up we would sing that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. This struck me even as a little boy. Past, present, and future are tied together in Christ. I’ve only grown in my appreciation for this as I’ve gotten older. More of my life is now history than ever before. My present is lived in the light of that past. My future is drawing shorter with each day. This would be very depressing without Christ. I have many great memories, but an equal number of regrets. I have a nice present, but I never make of it what I should. I hopefully have some years to go, but my body and mind remind me that they won’t be lived without limitations. And yet Christ was, and is, and will be. For the Christian, history is always in the present tense.
Are you a history person? Indubitably, you are. I just hope you realize it. You have a history in the present tense, because you have Christ, and Christ was for you, is for you, and will be for you. And in Christ you are part of a church, a communion of saints, many of them long forgotten, and yet remembered in Christ. They gather with us on the other side of the altar. We confess our unity with them in the creeds. They are past, but still present, with a shared future with us.
You have a history, but in Christ it’s never behind you. The good, the bad, the ugly, all have been worked together for you, and all will be worked together for you, so that you will never run out of stories to tell when it all melts together—past, present, and future. Are you a history person? You certainly are, and thank God for that!