“The Used-to-Be!” No, it’s not the title of a new reality TV show. It’s my way of identifying people I have encountered over my many years in the ministry and in many parts of our great nation.
How often I have visited someone who told me that they “used to be” a choir member or a Sunday school teacher or active in church events. I have concluded, over the years, that there are more people who “used to be,” than those who are.
Why, do you ask, are they a “used to be”? The reasons could fill a book, but here are just a few I have heard:
They didn’t like the color the restrooms were painted; the way the minister combed his or her hair; the menu for the weekly supper, or the choral anthems or hymns.
They didn’t think the grass was cut often enough; the minister’s funeral prayer didn’t use the person’s name enough, or that the pastor ended enough prayers with “In the name of Jesus.”
I am sure many of you can add a few more reasons.
When I read the trials and struggles of the Hebrew people in the Old Testament, it is clear that they found ways to separate themselves from worship and fulfilling God’s laws.
Throughout their history, the Hebrews endured tragedies as a nation, directly resulting from their separation from God.
When they were conquered by the Babylonians and taken into exile for 70 years, I can just imagine a picture of God on a passing billboard as they marched to Babylon, saying, “They used to be my people, and I used to be their God.”
Most of us don’t believe in a punishing God, but we should take care that we don’t walk so far away that — when the day comes and we need Him — the sign says He “used to be.”
The Rev. Robert Edwards is pastor at Bethlehem United Church of Christ on U.S. 11 in Tenth Legion.