Back to the Future

“For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice.” — T.S. Eliot

I knew it was coming sometime in the future. I just didn’t realize the future would be here so quickly. That old cliché on how time flies when you’re having fun must be true.

As of December, I will be history, an afterthought in aging Gleaners bound in hardcover repose on the office shelf. Retirement, it’s called, and I couldn’t be happier.

Strike from your mind an image of the aging horse put out to pasture. Expunge any thought that pajamas and slippers are soon to become the daily couture. I’m not hanging up the cleats, just switching saddles, changing lanes into areas perhaps less traveled.

It does feel a bit odd. After writing "thanks and goodbye" editorials for two former Gleaner editors, I'm now crafting my own eulogy. Yet nearly four decades of putting thought, energy and action into our Seventh-day Adventist Church mission have made me grateful for a personal identity not confined by the four walls of an office, the title on a business card or profile on LinkedIn. As sons and daughters of the King, we can share the richness of His presence and gifts of His Spirit anytime, anywhere.

Older church workers bring seasoned experience to our mission. Yet those of overripe age and ability should never be reluctant to step aside when new energy and inspired gifts are mentored and waiting from younger workers. So, I am doing my part, eagerly making room for fresh ideas and methods. That is how we move forward, refusing to accept status quo, willing to translate good intentions to positive action.

I like the apostle Paul's plan. "Reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13–14). When we set our sails to the wind of the Spirit, our personal and corporate journeys will be blessed.

Almost 50 years ago – a brash young troubadour penned an anthem of change that is strangely relevant to this path we are all on. “Your old road is rapidly agin’,” Bob Dylan wrote. “Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand, for the times, they are a-changin’.”

Indeed they are, Bob, and I’m moving out of the corporate way. But this changing world needs an unchanging message of love and redemption shared in narratives it understands. Down through the ages this has been the musical score given to God’s people on the grand cosmic stage, and we have yet to fully embrace it. God calls our church movement in every corner of the Pacific Northwest to find harmony in reaching current cultures, the communities around churches, schools and homes, for Jesus. Only then will each unique part of the score blend into the anthem of the redeemed.

Speaking of change, some among us can easily recall their old automatic record album changers, with spindles holding up to six vinyl disks. The first album would play through one side of five or six songs, then, reaching the end, the mechanical contraption would swing the arm back and trigger the next disk to fall and the needle drop. That cycle would repeat until all six records had finished.

Scanning through the years, it’s clear that several albums have been completed. But, looking ahead, I know there are more, ready to play. Change is in the air, and I can hardly wait to hear what songs are next.

Featured in: November/December 2019


Steve Vistaunet

North Pacific Union assistant to the president for communication and Gleaner editor, 1996–2019