“September 2010 marked a turning point in the development of Western civilization,” so begins an intriguing study by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter in A Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture. Interesting subtitle, isn't it? How counterculture became consumer culture. It was the month they say that Ad Busters Magazine started accepting orders for the Black Spot sneaker, its own signature brand of subversive running shoes. That's what we need… Subversive running shoes, I hate those just sort of non-subversive behaving shoes. After that day, no rational person could possibly believe that there's a tension between mainstream and alternative cultures. After that day, it became obvious to everyone that cultural rebellion of the type epitomized by Ad Busters Magazine is not a threat to the system. It is the system.
And it enamored of its own amazingness every generation, raises the empire to the foundations and starts over until the next generation as it goes at it. This is no way to build a culture and it's no way to build a life and it's no way to build a neighborhood, and brothers and sisters, it's no way to build a church. Who wants to be an ordinary person living in an ordinary neighborhood with ordinary people going to an ordinary church, having an ordinary calling? Our life has to count. It has to mean something and our legacy has to be measurable. It's something that we have to see preferably, not just in our lifetime but in the next 40 minutes. And yet, there's a growing restlessness I sense out there with restlessness. Some have grown tired of constant calls to reboot their lives or their churches or their ministries or the world. They're less sure they want to jump on to the next bandwagon after having fallen off of a few already.
Writer Rod Dreher observes “Everydayness is my problem.” In his book about his sister, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Dreher signals a growing sense of weariness with the cult of the extraordinary. Alternative is mainstream, extreme is common in a 24-hour news cycle. Now, every now and again, things have to be shaken up because the word of God, above all earthly powers challenges. It shakes things up. It keeps us from settling into our comfortable idolatries. And yet, whenever the word breaks things down, it is to build things up the right way, and building things up take time. That's why the 16th century movement led by the likes of Luther and Calvin was not called “the Revolution” but the Reformation.
Now, movements are usually youth driven, that's why they have so much vitality, whereas institutions are usually elder driven. And bringing these two things together as you know, especially those of you who are pastors, is one of the greatest opportunities and one of the greatest challenges in ministry. To fulfill Paul's exhortation in Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to preserve the bond of unity” and that means across the generations. The fathers aren't always right, as the writer to the Hebrews reminds us looking back at Israel's history. The fathers could be the generation in the wilderness that failed to enter the Promised Land, and it was the next generation that entered.
So, also Paul encourages Timothy, “Don't let anyone despise you because of your youth.” But he doesn't say, “Because remember your charisma. Remember your entrepreneurial skill. Remember all of your personal charm and your gifts, or remember your education.” He says, “Remember what you were taught and by whom you were taught when your mother and your grandmother catechized you into faith. And remember what happened when the elders in the presbytery, the council of elders, laid their hands on you in your ordination.” Very ordinary things… He calls Timothy to look outside of himself to ordinary things that God has done to put his seal of approval on his ministry. Our culture celebrates the next big thing but the Bible celebrates God's faithfulness from generation to generation. Kind of tough when we've been sold whatever it is that we really think is valuable with the slogan, "This is not your father's Oldsmobile." Well this is our fathers and our mothers’ faith, spiritual fathers and mothers at least who have gone before us and the children who will come after.