In the grocery store; paying for my stuff. The cashier says, “Do you want the stamps?” I say, “What stamps?” He pulls out a roll of little green stamps…which are, apparently, a reward for shopping and can be used as future purchase credits.
I’m thinking…green stamps? Green stamps? Then I recalled sitting on my grandpappy’s knee and him telling me about S&H Green Stamps…available at many retailers (gas stations were particularly prolific dispensers of green stamps). You pasted them into little booklets (according to my grandpappy) and then you could redeem them for prizes or could use them for future purchase credits.
So…meanwhile…back at the store…the cashier is acting like this is a NEW AND VERY EXCITING IDEA! It’s not…not even close.
Then…post an annual church leadership mega conference, put on by a mega church, served up to mega audiences. One of the speakers talks about thinking outside the box. (Actually he made it another box and labeled it “Box Three.” Which is technically different than the other two boxes but is, itself, a box, so as to not misplace things deposited therein…which can be, you know, a problem for things outside a box.)
Later, the same mega church has people thinking about this boxiness stuff and they come up with a grandly gushed over NEW idea: maybe some folks will need some…wait for it…quiet in their worship. Maybe some folks will resonate with…wait for it…liturgy and structure in their worship. They then acknowledge that these are not really new ideas…just new to them.
My daughter sometimes uses SMH (shaking my head) when I say something corny or ridiculous (no, she does not have an accumulation of concussive injuries because I am so frequently corny or ridiculous).
When I encountered the much gushed over ideas above…as if they were NEW, instead of SMH, I went all the way to BMHATNWATTMIFOAB. Sorry, for the uninitiated, that’s “Banging My Head Against The Nearest Wall And Then Throwing Myself In Front Of A Bus.”
Now, I have nothing against reclaiming practices that have meaning and purpose–in fact, I’m a fan. Let’s just not pretend they are new or that we invented them or that all those who went before us were ignoramuses of the grandest order and that nothing meaningful happened until we showed up. Let’s not mask our willful obliviousness of 2000 years of church history with tweets that have aspirations of profundity. Let’s not pretend that the Holy Spirit was on strike right up until the moment we arrived on the scene.
Solomon was right, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Oh, sure, there are some nifty gadgets (where is my lightening cable, anyway?). But with respect to human nature and our proclivities and the deepest and most meaningful engagement of Christian faith, there is truly nothing new.
Perhaps it’s hubris that keeps us from acknowledging this. Perhaps in a selfie world we just can’t help ourselves. Perhaps in an era when anything can be googled and therefore nothing is learned and held closely, it’s the price we pay for techno-dependence. But they’re stamps; they’re green; they’re not new.
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