Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reasons for the Ruts

Last Sunday I shared with Anchor Park UMC in a sermon the reasons why the distance between our railroad tracks is four feet, eight and one half inches.  The reason the rail distance is this odd number is because that's the way they built them in England, and American railroads were built by British expatriates.  Why did the English adopt that particular gauge?  Because the people who built the pre-railroad tramways used that gauge.  They in turn were locked into that gauge because the people who built tramways used the same standards and tools they had used for building wagons, which were set on a gauge of four feet, eight-and-one-half inches.  Why were wagons built to that scale? Because with any other size, the wheels did not match the old wheel ruts on the roads.  You see where this is going, don’t you?
So who built these old rutted roads?  The first long-distance highways in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been in use ever since. The ruts were first made by Roman war chariots.  Four feet, eight-and-one-half inches was the width a chariot needed to be to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses.
Someone has said that the seven last words of the church are: “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”  Perhaps you are the kind of person who dislikes this attitude.  Such an attitude stifles creativity and ingenuity.  It conjures images of stuffy people who wouldn’t change their routine if their lives depended on it.  We need to understand and appreciate our history so we can understand the ruts that keep us on a certain road. 
But we also need to step out of the old ruts so we can forge a new path, one that will put us in touch with people where they are.  We need to be on a path that stretches and challenges us and moves us out of our comfort zones.  We need to be on a path where the Spirit of God guides us, not the old ruts!  
Old ruts.  It can feel comfortable to know where we going, or rather, where we are NOT going.  In this age of change the Church needs to cultivate a culture of experimentation.  Try new things.  Take some risks.  The Church can not afford to be on the tail end of a cultural shift.  We need to be at the forefront.  We need to get our wagons out of the ruts!

Grace and peace,

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