“This is an old wart. We should just leave it alone.” ~ Phoebe
Over the last month a wart appeared on Phoebe’s thumb – her sucking thumb. The doctor suggested Compound W bandaids. But Phoebe pulls them off during the night – making me worried the compound could kill her lips rather than her wart. The quote from above came after I asked her to please not pull off the bandage…
This past Sunday I mentioned the word tradition. People automatically look to the older crowd – as though I am speaking to just one group in the church. But tradition is not a product of age. “Old” may be less than a month if you are Phoebe. In the same way, tradition is just another way to describe what we are used to experiencing. Some of these experiences may just be a few months or years old. (More than once students in Augusta were upset about change – including when we dared to use the phrase “student ministry” rather than “youth ministry”!). Other experience are decades, even centuries old.
Many of these, in the end, are inconsequential. Like why the pastor preaches at the end of the service? I suppose to save the best for last… but why not have the sermon at the beginning? People may conjure theology, but in the end it is just taste.
And I think a few experiences – traditions – are older than the church. Which is a problem.
On Sunday I spoke about how the church is not a place, but a people. We are the church. We are the dwelling place of God. So wherever, whenever we go – is a moment of church.
Then I made an off-handed comment, something I had not written in my sermon notes, “To consider church a place, a location, is a return to Judaism. A return to when God’s dwelling place was the temple.”
And this provoked more thoughts. How much of our struggle today roots in the traditions of Judaism? …
Judaism lived in a system of clean and unclean. Sin made one unclean – unable to stand before God. To become clean required work and sacrifice. Therefore they feared becoming sinful and judged sinners, a lifestyle the Pharisees perfected.
But the life of the Pharisee still lives in the church today. A tradition so deep it causes us to forget the cross. Causes us to forget that sin has been defeated (death, the scourge of sin, has been overcome). We no longer must fear becoming unclean or work to be made holy – because the cross has made us holy. Everyone is made clean at the cross.
Christianity is not to avoid sin, but to be with the One who set us free.
Everything else must be burned off.