Friday, December 2, 2011

The Traditions of Men, Supplanting Righteousness

Mark 7:9-13 (ESV) And he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! [10] For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' [11] But you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban' (that is, given to God)— [12] then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, [13] thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do." Reviling your parents is ok, as long as you do it in the name of God, that is what the Pharisees would have you believe. It haunted Luther his whole life, that he had not honored his Dad’s wishes and joined the monastery instead. Of course it was an oath, not to God, but to a saint, that made him join the Monastery. The traditions of men, they so often override God’s word. And I’m not talking about just any traditions here, neither is Jesus. Traditions are traditions, there are good ones. There are indifferent ones. And there are bad ones. I here reformed maligning the church year as a tradition. These are supposedly bad. I suppose they could be. When the liturgical year is celebrated in such a manner as to say that you earn extra grace for participating in certain days, and are maybe penalized for missing days, then yes it is bad. This is what Paul criticizes the Galatians for in the fourth chapter of that letter. I think the given the context of Galatians, these days, months, seasons and years, is the old Jewish calendar whose time had passed. And it is worth while noting that such pious legalism as this is what Paul gets at as satisfying the flesh, and so on in this letter. However, when the seasons are followed by traditions set up to emphasize different aspects of Christ’s life such as we have in the Liturgical year, and is acknowledged to be adiaphron for which one does not earn merit for observing a day, or get penalized for working on Christmas, then the charge that these are traditions of men that need to be done away with is itself a tradition of man. Of course, we are coming on the Christmas season. When I was a kid fundamentalists were mad about the secularization of the holiday, today they seem to have been reading Calvin and Zwingli again, and now they think the holiday is just as evil as the Puritans thought it was. Now parents are afraid to buy their children presents at all, much less in the name of Santa Clause. And from here comes a charge against the whole church year. It doesn’t make sense to me. Myself, I love the fact that as much as everyone for centuries from reformed stick in the muds, to atheists have tried to get rid of Christmas it is such a big part of our culture that it keeps going. The movies surrounding this season have never been good, in my opinion. Yet even there, it is the one time of year that you see a movie, and people just might end up in church. And this is true of the culture too. People come to church on Christmas Eve, not usually Christmas day for some reason. Easter does the same. It isn’t that people think they earn grace that they come, most these days could care less about that. But there is something missing for them if they don’t. They grew up in wonderment of those services that seem to hold special charm despite the pastor’s sermon. Most often they think Christmas and Easter are safe days for coming to church, days when they will hear sermons on themes they are somewhat familiar with. Pastors are prone to give the gospel on these days. So they come. I tend to think that is a good thing. I just do. Sure I wish they’d come more often, but I’ll take it as a start. And I’m glad Christianity still has this cultural hold on them. Love it really. So this is one area where I’d bid my reformed brethren, to join them, you aren’t going to beat them. Have a cup of Gluhwein, and preach the gospel.

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