Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Our little village of Anatevka or the Kingdom of God

Every day of our lives the Word is an imperative to rediscover the truth that, "the whole secret and centre of human life remains the person of Jesus Christ."

There is a song in the musical Fiddler on the Roof called "Tradition." As this Jewish father sang this song, this message was immediately conveyed: Life is full of traditions. As you listen to the song "Tradition" in the film, you can hear the frustration and weariness in the voice of the father. He too had worn himself out trying to keep all the traditions.
Traditions can be very meaningful, at times, however, they get in the way of the effectiveness of God's Word in our lives, and they can become very burdensome. Keeping traditions non-reflectively can  prevent us from seeing the newness and freshness of God's acting in our cooperative life in the otherwise forgotten past. When we forget the purpose of doing things they simply become a habit.

Religions are full of traditions, and habits and Christianity is not free of them either. And we need to make a distinction between a religion and Christianity as the latter is more of a term for a relationship between God and his people. And a relationship is always fresh, changing, alive, purposeful, full of meaning even hidden meanings to an outsider. In short, not everything we do need to be understood by someone who is not in that relationship between God and man. Communion or baptism for example; given the diversity of forms and even content in both, I have to wonder, however, if I actually understand its purpose. Sadly, our cooperative history as body of Christ somewhat shows, we didn't. We persecuted each other over differences in forms and content, we took each other lives over differences of understanding the mystery and wonders of God becoming man and leaving behind His Spirit to teach us all truth.

For that and perhaps other reasons as well, the Salvation Army has none of it, neither the celebration of communion nor of baptism. Some of us may frown upon this, but consider the tens of thousands of murdered brothers and sisters, murdered by brothers and sisters! I understand, I share their sorrow but not their tradition or habits of refraining from both. For me, personally, communion is an ongoing expression of a relationship with hidden meanings, just as baptism was a one time expression of the same relationship. But for that very reason I can't tether myself to my preference of form or time, rather as in relationship forms are flux and full of meaning, one of which is to remind us of the past and to express a hope of a future.

There are experiences God did call us to repeat over and over again so we don't forget. One of these is the partaking of the Lord's supper on a regular basis. Some share in this experience weekly, others monthly and still others annually. But when a tradition overshadows the life-giving Word of God, the Word of God is not effective. How many times have you sung the doxology or repeated the Lord's Prayer? If we are not careful, even the words we speak and sing can be repeated so often that we miss their freshness, their invitation into a relationship take them for granted and are no loner made new through them.

 But this is more than an casual acknowledgement that Jesus lived and died and rose again in the past. It is this kind of knowledge that leaves us changed, To believe that all Jesus calls us to do is to be nice to each other is to substitute the Christ of Christian humanism for the Christ of Scripture. It is an encounter with someone who alters the very foundation and course of our lives. Scripture, is not the transmission of inert ideas. It is a call to love, and love that does not lead to action, even sacrificial actions is not love.

Lord, each day You have something new for me. Help me to have ears to hear, eyes to see and a tongue to speak of the new things You want to speak to through me and show through me. I enter this day with excitement because it is a new day, and You not only make all things new, You give new meaning to all things new.

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