As it Was

By Pastor Phil Stanley April 7, 2024

This weekend kicks off the annual “tradition unlike any other” here in Augusta. I actually love the tournament and especially love how much it helps our local economy out. I’m not gonna lie, I thought about trying to figure out how to turn Sweet Ride into a fundraising juggernaut this week. It could’ve been glorious. We might’ve raised our 70k just through a sweet sweet shuttle service. You never know. 

But each year I think about the gazillion people who come here to do the exact same thing each Master’s week. It’s an event steeped in tradition and in a lot of ways it’s those traditions that make it feel special. 

The irony is that aside from the time of year, very little has remained unchanged about the Augusta National. The walkways have changed, the parking lots have changed, they’ve reconfigured the course itself, the property surrounding it constantly changes, and even the pimento cheese sandwiches have changed. Don’t fight me. They’re still good but they’re different y’all. 

But it’s celebrated as the golf tournament of tradition. The one major tournament that doesn’t change location. 

I bet the good folks who founded Augusta National would barely recognize it.  They’ve done an incredible job of holding onto key aspects of their history and I don’t know anyone who has leveraged good old fashion nostalgia the way they have. 

That’s the one thing you have to tip your cap to even if you hate Master’s week and don’t care one bit about it. They know how to make you feel nostalgic.

I can tell you that in my career of making marketing videos, there’s nothing more powerful than making people feel nostalgic. 

It works super well and it’s why we keep seeing it over and over again. 

Why do you think the number one strategy from Disney, Universal, CBS, NBC, all of the major TV networks and movie studios is to bring back something from 20-30 years ago? 

Nostalgia sells. 

We get new versions of the same thing and the goal isn’t necessarily to make these robots better, it’s to get you to buy a ticket or streaming service. 

You see the trailer for a new version of the Lion King and suddenly you’re like hakunna matatah let’s go. 

The trailers always play up to something from the original to get you hooked. 

We don’t just do it with entertainment. Each generation has a soft spot in their hearts for a particular decade. 

Some people relish the 70s for all the music and fashion, a lot of people in this room consider the 80s to be the greatest decade ever with big hair, cassette tapes and a whole lot of totally awesome movies. 

I can go on and on but my point is that humans have this unique ability to look back at a time from before and see it through this glossed over and sometimes frightfully inaccurate lens. 

It’s scary but it’s true. We remember things differently than the reality of how it was. 

How many times have you heard someone say something like “I remember when gas prices were under a dollar a gallon” Or “I remember when we could keep our doors unlocked at night and not worry” How about “I remember when this nation had values” That’s a classic. 

If you’re honest you’ve probably not just heard one of those, you’ve probably said a few yourself. 

And it’s super fascinating because there’s truth to some of that. Gas was cheaper but wages were also lower, people did feel more secure at home but maybe that’s because it was easier to get away with shady stuff before the internet and cell phones. Sure, America has had some super awesome moments where our leaders and the values we like to celebrate like freedom and equality have been super inspirational but at the same time there were ugly missteps and people getting hurt and marginalized. 

How bout the one you hear “I wish we would have real church like they did 100 years ago” 

You mean when basically every denomination would have a heart attack if they heard about Heather being a pastor? Or that we have a “mixed” congregation? You mean that good old time religion? 

We are very fortunate to live exactly in the point and time God has placed us in.  We could have been in the dark ages encountering the plague. We could have been born into a time of persecution where they could toss all of us in an arena to be eaten by animals just because we came to church this morning. 

That’s why it’s always amusing to hear people talk about how “things have never been as bad as it is now”

But we love to look back and think of the good old days. 

Y’all know the super famous song “As it was?” 

It’s super catchy and is basically a song dealing with nostalgia and it’s also the title of my message this morning. 

As it was.

a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition

I want to look at a passage from Numbers this morning. 

The children of Israel were also prone to misplaced nostalgia and I think we can learn from it this morning. 

God delivered the Israelites from Egypt and after they crossed the Red Sea they spent about a year camping at Mount Sinai. All sorts of fun little things happen there but I want to pick up in chapter 10 as they set out from Sinai to make there way to the promised land.

Numbers 10:33-36 And so off they marched. From the Mountain of God they marched three days with the Chest of the Covenant of God in the lead to scout out a campsite. The Cloud of God was above them by day when they marched from the camp. With the Chest leading the way, Moses would say,

    Get up, God!
    Put down your enemies!
    Chase those who hate you to the hills!

And when the Chest was set down, he would say,

    Rest with us, God,
    Stay with the many,
    Many thousands of Israel.

11 1-3 The people fell to grumbling over their hard life. God heard. When he heard his anger flared; then fire blazed up and burned the outer boundaries of the camp. The people cried out for help to Moses; Moses prayed to God and the fire died down. They named the place Taberah (Blaze) because fire from God had blazed up against them.

Camp Kibroth Hattaavah

4-6 The misfits among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining, “Why can’t we have meat? We ate fish in Egypt—and got it free!—to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic. But nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna.”

7-9 Manna was a seedlike substance with a shiny appearance like resin. The people went around collecting it and ground it between stones or pounded it fine in a mortar. Then they boiled it in a pot and shaped it into cakes. It tasted like a delicacy cooked in olive oil. When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna was right there with it.

10 Moses heard the whining, all those families whining in front of their tents. God’s anger blazed up. Moses saw that things were in a bad way.

18-20 “Tell the people, Consecrate yourselves. Get ready for tomorrow when you’re going to eat meat. You’ve been whining to God, ‘We want meat; give us meat. We had a better life in Egypt.’ God has heard your whining and he’s going to give you meat. You’re going to eat meat. And it’s not just for a day that you’ll eat meat, and not two days, or five or ten or twenty, but for a whole month. You’re going to eat meat until it’s coming out your nostrils. You’re going to be so sick of meat that you’ll throw up at the mere mention of it. And here’s why: Because you have rejected God who is right here among you, whining to his face, ‘Oh, why did we ever have to leave Egypt?’”

30-34 Then Moses and the leaders of Israel went back to the camp. A wind set in motion by God swept quails in from the sea. They piled up to a depth of about three feet in the camp and as far out as a day’s walk in every direction. All that day and night and into the next day the people were out gathering the quail—huge amounts of quail; even the slowest person among them gathered at least sixty bushels. They spread them out all over the camp for drying. But while they were still chewing the quail and had hardly swallowed the first bites, God’s anger blazed out against the people. He hit them with a terrible plague. They ended up calling the place Kibroth Hattaavah (Graves-of-the-Craving). There they buried the people who craved meat.

Nostalgia will trick you into thinking Slavery is Stability.

They were willing to go back to Egypt for the food they remembered getting for free… 

Nostalgia will trick you into thinking the Miraculous is Mundane.

They looked down at the mana God sent them. Maybe it’s because they had to work for it? 

Nostalgia will trick you into trading your Empowerment for Entitlement. 

They looked back at what they had before and became discontent with what God was doing. Even with the evidence of God’s Spirit being active among them.

God wants to reset your expectations. 

Two weeks ago I preached on breakthroughs and about how some of you were one swing away from getting through to the otherside. 

I wonder if your nostalgia for the way things were in the past have blinded you from seeing how God wants to work in your life right now. 

Nostalgia will trick you into trading your Promise for a Plague. 

Maybe the real plague was the desire to look back at how it was. 

I’ve preached messages about building monuments and looking back at what God has done in your life and I still believe in it. But it matters how we look back.

Looking back to celebrate God’s grace and His victories is beautiful. But the moment we make it about what we used to have, we’ve slipped into idolatry. 

The idolatry of nostalgia is sneaky. 

I remember a number of years ago being around some of my friends and these guys had incredible testimonies of how God had saved them. They had been in the party life, they drank, did things they acknowledged were not great but at dinner one night they started talking about this particular flavor of beer they missed. 

They no longer drank or anything but for a few moments they sat there talking about how good that was and you could tell they were nostalgic about it all. 

Nostalgia will trick you into Desiring the very thing you’ve been Delivered from.