Our preacher this morning pointed out that in ancient Roman mythology Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions. He is usually depicted as a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past; therefore, the first month of the year is named January. This is a time when we reflect on the past year by producing top ten lists of the “best of” while setting goals and making resolutions for the coming year.
During 2011, I had plenty of opportunities to reflect on the past as I attended funerals of friends and colleagues who have meant a great deal in my life. Although there is always much to celebrate in the lives of these individuals, funerals are also times of nostalgia, seeing old friends, and thinking about both blessings and opportunities missed.
Looking forward is an opportunity to consider possibility and promise. I find that I do this as I watch my grandchildren grow, learn, and encounter new experiences. I often wonder how the world they live in will differ not only from the one in which I grew to maturity, but the world of today. I also reflect on the future as I work with seminary students. Whether they are mature learners or young adults, I am inspired by the potential that I see in them for ministry.
This year Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is looking in two directions. CBF will continue to celebrate its past—twenty years of existence—and take at least two significant steps into the future. At the General Assembly in Fort Worth in June, participants will receive the report of the 2012 Task Force that will recommend how the Fellowship will function in coming years. Most observers also expect that someone to succeed Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal will be selected by that time. As a person who invested over ten years in the work of the Fellowship as coordinator of the Tennessee Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, I feel that I have a stack both in the past and in the future of CBF.
The Fellowship stands at a defining point. As much as we value what has happened in the last twenty years, the successes of the past make little difference in meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow. So we look back and celebrate the past, but we open our eyes to present realities and pray for wisdom to address the needs of the churches and the world in effective and meaningful ways.
As the preacher pointed out this morning, there is joy in anticipation and in seeking, but this means that we must let go of the familiar in the process. That is both exhilarating and scary!