Thursday, September 12
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suﬀering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15)
The phrase “constancy without stagnation” holds the tension between Christian tradition and being led forward by God into new revelation.
We are not the ﬁrst people to walk the path of Christian faith. The Holy Spirit has revealed amazing things to those who came before us. Our Church is built on the beliefs and practices of the past. Christian tradition provides the foundation for all our discipleship and mission.
Think of all the teachings God revealed that we claim as essentials of the Christian faith:
• Jesus’ teachings on living out the Kingdom of God
• the importance of living by faith instead of obedience to the Law
• the sacraments of Communion and Baptism as means of grace
• the mystery of Jesus, incarnate as fully God, fully human
• the presence of the Holy Spirit
• the inclusion of Gentiles in the New Covenant
• the nature of God as Trinity
• worship on Sunday (the day of Resurrection) rather than Saturday, the Sabbath
• the canon of the New Testament
Each of those traditions on which we stand, when originally revealed by God, was a NEW idea for the faithful. Some of them were incredibly controversial! Think of the radical shift the monotheistic Jews faced when asked to accept the Trinity or worship on Sunday. In each case, the faithful had to remain connected to their past, while being open to what God was doing in that moment.
We should never treat Christian tradition ﬂippantly or abandon it without signiﬁcant biblical reﬂection, prayer, conversation, and Spirit-led experiences. And yet, we believe God has more to reveal to the Church. We are far, far from perfect. As ambassadors, Christians can never aﬀord to believe that we have arrived at full knowledge or ﬂawless practice. God calls us to continue growing, learning, and reaching out with the love of Christ into the changing world. Those tasks challenge us to learn from the past and stay open to God’s next new thing.
In other words, we must strive for constancy in our witness — avoiding stagnation or shoehorning every new cultural trend in our faith.
• What are your favorite parts of Christian tradition?
• What are some of the “traditions” with which you grew up that you are pleased to see no longer practiced?
• In your experience, where do congregations usually struggle when it comes to balancing tradition and exploring new ideas? Are churches too focused on tradition or too determined to jump on bandwagons?
• What are some “new practices” you would like to see our congregation adopt?