Look Forward

Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels and looked backward rather than forward. Jeremiah 7:24

Dear People of St. David’s,

All of us remember particular texts that “stick with us,” either because of our affection for the person who penned or uttered them, or because the words resonated deeply with us. I remember one of our parishioners writing to his staff years ago about the Roman god Janus, whose name is given to the month of January. Janus had two heads; one looked forward and one looked backward. Because we consider January as the beginning of a new calendar year, looking both ways seem natural. Looking forward and backward is a good thing in many situations: when driving a car, or shepherding children. But in our daily lives, and our life in God, it can be a mixed practice.

Jeremiah is quoting God when he suggests that looking backward can cause us to walk in our own counsels, which might well be stubborn. Remember Moses being on the receiving end of the complaints of the recently freed people of Israel, for whom favorite foods seemed so attractive that the memory of them overwhelmed their remembrance of servitude? Here was their complaint: “If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic . . .[1]” Surely, they had lost all perspective! How in the world could those foods stack up against God’s mighty deed of parting the Red Sea so that those very same people might walk through to safety? Had they really forgotten their miraculous liberation and become laser-focused on food instead?

We probably don’t do very well “walking in our own counsels,” because it’s so easy to fall into “we always did it that way before!” But we are called to obey and incline our ears, listening for God’s leading, being open to that which is new. We are called to look forward, but not blindly, instead remembering the lessons of the past, put into proper perspective. This is likely the stuff of New Year resolutions, where looking forward, we resolve to change something we can see as we look backward. That is not a bad thing. But the forward-looking face should be taking over now, curiosity about what is to come, rather than fear. It’s time to remember that we are God’s, always will be, forever. Nothing separates us from the love and grace of God, and that certainty is what must focus our living, facing forward.

George Rawson’s poem, set to music in The Hymnal 1982 as hymn 629 reminds us, “We limit not the truth of God to our poor reach of mind, to notions of our day and place, crude, partial, and confined; no, let a new and better hope within our hearts be stirred: the Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from his word.”

Look forward into the Light; surely it is breaking forth!


The Rev. Elizabeth W. Colton
Associate Rector

[1] Numbers 11:4b,5