Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 143; 147:12-20, Job 8:1-10, 20-22, Acts 10:17-33, John 7:14-36
A young bride wanted to make a roast just like her mother. To her husband’s dismay she cut off the ends – what he called “the best part” – because that’s what her mother did. When asked why, the mother who replied: “That’s how your grandmother taught me.” So she asked the grandmother who replied: “So it would fit in the pan.” Variations of this joke span many cultures, because it tells a truth about human behavior. One version isn’t so funny: the one where we cut away people who don’t fit in our church.
Peter’s action of eating a meal with Gentiles in a Gentile home – after the Lord sent him a vision about clean and unclean food – scandalized his Jewish contemporaries. Peter didn’t shatter this taboo to be outrageous; he did it because God made it clear the old traditions no longer served God’s purpose. How often do we run into this problem in our own faith communities? From the arrangement of chairs to the arrangement of the liturgy, we stick with what we’ve always done without examining whether it still serves God’s purpose. Sometimes our reluctance to change keeps people out or drives them away.
Jesus laid a firm foundation for this upheaval of tradition. For example, when Jewish leaders attacked him for healing a man on the Sabbath, Jesus pointed out they themselves performed circumcisions on the Sabbath to uphold Moses’ command. We should note he never broke tradition just to shake things up, but to serve a compassionate, higher purpose.
Traditions are an important part of faith and life. We shouldn’t change them merely to be popular or current. The church must be wise enough to offer people what they need, not just what they want. We should, however, periodically examine our traditions to ask why we observe them. If we don’t know, maybe a change is needed. If we realize a tradition – for example, sexist roles – excludes people from the faith community, are we willing to sacrifice some of the best parts because someone in the past used a smaller pan? Challenging ourselves: it’s a Christian tradition!
Comfort: Many traditions exist for a good reason.
Challenge: When the reason is not so good, we must be willing to listen for God’s new direction.
Prayer: Loving God, we live in an ever-changing world. Help us to value the things you value, and to embrace the changes you would have us embrace. Amen.
Discussion: What changes – at church, home, work, or school – really bugged you? Which turned out to be better after all?
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