Traditions

At the last Kewanee Ministerial Association meeting the other ministers began discussing Ash Wednesday, the
best way to make or purchase ashes, and how to best apply the ashes. When I mentioned that our church doesn’t celebrate
Ash Wednesday, it was met with surprise. Then, this past Sunday, our Sunday School class began discussing traditions
and the pros and cons associated with them. It reminded me about my visit one time to a Greek Orthodox Church. The
Priest told me, “The difference between your church and mine is that you just have the Bible, and we have the Bible and
tradition. So if you didn’t have the Bible, you would have nothing, but we still would have tradition.” This always stuck
with me because I thought and the time, and still think today, that tradition that has no connection with the scripture is not
a good foundation for a church.

Let’s be clear, every church has traditions. Once a church has had a single service, or even one planning meeting,
traditions have been established. Some churches have quite weighty traditions spanning back hundreds of years, while
others have traditions over months or maybe decades. The question is: is tradition intrinsically good or evil?
 
The answer is neither. Positive traditions can draw a group together. It gives that group a sense of shared identity
and purpose. Your family’s holiday traditions hopefully help knit that collective identity together. Even relatively
nonsensical traditions can become well loved over the years because of the shared memories and bonds that the tradition
evokes. Traditions can also become divisive and be more about who’s excluded than included. If you’ve ever been to
another family’s holiday celebrations, there may be traditions that are strange to you and may leave you feeling left out.
Traditions can prevent a group from making needed changes to move forward. When “We’ve always done it that way”
becomes more important than “Maybe God is leading us this way”, the church will have problems.
 
In our church, we strive to follow the tradition of the early church in Acts 2:42, and devote ourselves to the
apostles’ teaching, to prayer, to the breaking of bread (communion) and the fellowship. We also hold an unbroken
tradition of baptism stretching back to the apostles. But these traditions are based on scripture. What about those that are
not explicitly mentioned in scripture? Those traditions can be valuable for a time, but we must never elevate a man-made
tradition to the level of scripture. If a time comes when a tradition that was once helpful to the church becomes harmful to
the church, then the health of the church takes precedence over that manmade tradition. Here at FCC, I believe we have an
openness to new methods, while still holding onto the unchanging message of God.