Tradition! And Tough Love

Grace and Peace to you

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ

As we hold fast to the traditions which bring us comfort

Let us not be separated

Because of those traditions

From the Living Word

Which not only defines us

But claims us, marks us

As Children of God

Bonded through Christ our Savior




In our Gospel text this morning

Is once more admonishing our friends the Pharisees

“You abandon the commandment of God

And hold to human tradition”


As people of faith,

We find ourselves chuckling

Oh those Pharisees

Always in the hot seat

The blinders of the Law

Was seared, clinging to their skin

Holiness and faithfulness passed down through



Tradition of their elders

They rejected removing the masks

And fully breathing the pure sweet air

Of God’s Grace

That was poured out throughout the atmosphere

Especially where Jesus Christ was present


This new teaching

This new way of thinking

This new tradition of forgiveness

Regardless of who we are

Or what we hold deeply

Jesus brought into our midst this crazy idea

Of living into the beauty of God’s Mercy

For ourselves

For others

For the times we stumble and fail the beloved community

Jesus commanded and proclaimed to the people

To instead follow a more perfect Law

To love one another as God showered us with God’s Love

This law that shattered the misconceptions that only a chosen few

Had access to the kingdom of God


We read these Scriptures and laugh

Oh these Pharisees

We question and wonder,

This constant interrogation of Jesus

How ignorant to throw human made traditions in His face

As if there was more importance

How phenomenal to be in Jesus’s presence!

But I wonder how our laughter would fade

If the mirror was turned toward us

And we recognized the faces of the Pharisees

In our own



What if Jesus came among us and questioned our traditions?

What if Jesus pointed out that our traditions

Blocked the way of living into God’s mission?


But traditions must be upheld, right?

They keep the balance for our lives

They point to the way things should be

And what God expects of us,

Or so prophesizes one of my favorite characters

Teveh from the Fiddler on the Roof

As this musical opens up the journey

Peering into the lives of a faithful people

Struggling through hardships

And more importantly, change

Teveh from the very beginning

Points out the need for tradition

“It tells us what we should eat,

How to sleep

Even what to wear!” he boasts

He shares an example of the prayer shawl he wears

As a sacred tradition

To remind the wearer of their constant devotion to God

“You may ask how this tradition got started,” he quips

But how interesting after a pause

Teveh’s face grows perplexed as he adds,

“I don’t know”.


“You abandon the commandment of God,

And hold to human tradition”

What is Jesus objecting

In our Gospel text this morning?


We’ve all heard the mantra

That Cleanliness

Is next to Godliness, right?

This ritual of hand washing

Goes back to the time of Moses

Goes back to instructions God gave to Moses

That can be found in Exodus

That before they could be in the presence of holy things

Before they could touch anything of the altar deemed holy

Before entering the Temple

They must wash their hands and feet

“ that they may not die:

it shall be a perpetual ordinance for them,

…throughout their generations.”


The rabbis and teachers continued to instruct the people,

After the Temple was destroyed

To continue this ritual into daily life

But these rituals and practices soon took on a different meaning

A way to discern

Those considered a part of the beloved people of God

And those who were considered,

By human beings

To be outsiders

Those to be avoided,

Because they were not pure or holy


Traditions sometimes

Hinder not only our connectedness

And relationship with the Creator God

But even more so,

With one another



Here at Redeemer, as I understand it

We celebrate Santa Lucia

With candlelights and singing

At Prince of Peace,

We celebrated that

And also the Festival Days of the Saints

With incense and with chanting

These are moments for prayers and fellowship

In sacred spaces


In the African Descent tradition

We always begin worship with drumming

And by acknowledging our Ancestors

Those who came before us,

Those who taught us

Those who gave of themselves

Connecting us to their memory

And the sacredness of that moment

Of inviting them to be present

As we lift up libations

Pouring water

As an example of how God’s Love flows, healing all


But sharing of this tradition sadly

Did not mesh with many in this Synod

A number of years ago,

The African Descent Pastors were invited to offer up this worship

At a Synod Assembly

Days later

People would express outage




How could they have allowed something to go against the grain?




Why do we allow our anger and spite and ugliness

Get in the way of building relationships

Building new ways of bonding ourselves

With one another?

Isn’t it more important,

That we are celebrating, worshiping together

As people of God, as beloved community?

I think the Creator is more delighted

When we go off script sometimes

Because it is there, in our hearts,

Open to the Holy Spirit

Opening our whole being

Washing away the toxicity that this world cakes on us

Weighing so heavily, invading those sacred places within

“For it is from within, from the human heart,

That heartless intentions come forth

That cloud our minds and our fragile spirits

Until we are confused and mistake

Tradition for righteousness


The Pharisees saw this new way of being,

Of living free forgetting and abandoning the Laws

Of their Elders

As a stumbling block they could not push past

To be Free as God called them to be!


This unauthorized behavior

Of moving as the Spirit challenges

And calls both them,

And us, beloved

The Spirit calling us to be active

In the lives of those around us

In the lives of those who have been forgotten

It is because of the traditions of our Elders

It is because of the Spirit of our Ancestors

Because of this faith they lovingly passed on to us

We continue to live out what God has called us all to

Even if it means doing things a little differently

Because what God wants for God’s people

Is for us to be always connected

Here at the Table

In the Meal

Through the Passing of the Peace

Through sharing the Love that the risen Christ poured out


And through this tradition,

Of coming together at this Meal

We share the Good News of Jesus Christ

That even as this world bombards us with hatred and malice

Bombards us with messages to turn away from

Being unified under the Cross

Cajoles us from turning away from

This troublemaker, Jesus Christ

Whose presence turns this world upside down!

The Good News is that God Loves

And we always have access to God’s Love, Mercy and Grace

Right here, always!


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