Good morning and welcome. Today we’re going to look at tradition, in fact the title of the scripture is “The Tradition of the Elders”. Everything in the Bible is about context. That is also true about everything in our lives. Everything past, present, or future must be examined within its own context. Context is the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed. Put simply context is something that is either written or spoken immediately after or before a passage that clarifies its meaning. To unpack it further, context provides clarity to our lives. For most of us we take refuge in tradition because its safe. Tradition does not change, occasionally tradition is added to but very rarely is it altered to remove something. That’s the beauty of tradition, it’s immovable, inflexible, it can be refined and held up as an example to later generations. It’s comforting because we can rely on it to not surprise us. But tradition can set us at odds with the rest of the world and occasionally assume ridiculous proportions. Stop me if you heard this one A Priest, A Minister, A Rabbi and A Bear: A priest, a minister, and a rabbi want to see who’s best at his job. So, each one goes into the woods, finds a bear, and attempts to convert it. Later, they all get together. The priest begins: “When I found the bear, I read to him from the catechism and sprinkled him with holy water. Next week is his first Communion.” “I found a bear by the stream,” says the minister, “and preached God’s holy Word. The bear was so mesmerized that he let me baptize him.” They both look down at the rabbi, who is lying on a gurney in a body cast. “Looking back,” he says, “maybe I shouldn’t have started with the circumcision.” Author Unknown. Silly, yes. Tradition can become comical if it’s carried to far. 7 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” Let’s stop right there. This is where we get into context, when we read this the first thing that pops into our minds is Oh no they didn’t wash their hands what filthy little disciples they are. No, the Pharisees main concern is the ritual washing of hands. If your interested you can see a quick explanation on YouTube just search Jewish ritual handwashing, I found it quite interesting. Anyway, back to context, this was something that had become a ritualistic requirement not of mosaic law but of tradition. It’s not a law it is a tradition that has become so ingrained in Jewish society that it has taken on the patina of law and you risked excommunication at that time, even today you could find yourself in trouble with the modern Pharisee for not doing this. As tradition takes on the form of law it supplants the actual laws of God, it puts us back where we constantly seek to be, trying to be God. How many times have you heard this from someone, I’m not religious. Well neither am I. Today’s religion is taking on the same patina as hand washing did in Jesus day. When I think of religion, I see Joel Osteen, Creflo dollar, Kenneth Copeland, and Oral Roberts. I see churches built on tradition, built on sand, and not on the firm foundation that is the word of God. The pharisee did not go away when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D.The Pharisee are alive and well and living in the United States, the Pharisee have become the religious establishment.
I don’t say this to be mean or judgmental. I’m simply observing a fact, today’s religion is no longer really based on the word of God , rather it is based on feelings, and tradition is being used to hide the true word of God. Tradition is subtly twisting the word of God to achieve the other guys design and not God’s. More and more often the word of God is given nothing more than lip service, listen… 6 He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ 8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” I don’t want to be a part of a religion that simply gives lip service to God, I don’t want to be a part of a religion that says the Lord’s prayer by rote with no meaning and I don’t want to be a part of a religion that affirms their belief in God the same way they would read a laundry list. I don’t want to be religious, I want to be Godly, I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, I want to live my life in Sanctifying Grace. I want to live my life as a child of God and servant of our Lord Jesus. Amen. Tradition is fine for keeping old memories alive but the Word of God is the living word, it has no need for tradition to keep it alive, for it is renewed constantly, it’s renewed every time we read it, Every time I read the Bible I get something different the Holy Spirit opens up something new and it’s not just me He’s been doing it all over the world for ages. The word of God is alive and well within us and it is renewed and renews us every time we read it. Every time we worship the Lord with our hearts, our minds and all of our strength we are not worshiping in vain, we are worshiping as the Father commanded through the Son. When we partake of communion we are not performing some tradition, we are partaking of the Holy Sacrament of Communion, we are doing as our Lord and Saviour commanded us to do before He paid for our sins. Communion is not a tradition it’s a Holy and Sacred covenant with God. Baptism is not a tradition, it a Holy and Sacred covenant with God, which we do to be cleansed of sin and to rise as a new creation in Christ. They are necessary because we are not Holy. Understand this,
14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” I’m going to pull a 180 from my normal preaching, instead of telling you it’s not about us, this time it is. This time we are responsible, we are the source of the evil in this world, the enemy does not make us evil, he does not corrupt us, he only shows us the possibilities that we have within ourselves. What’s that misquoted saying by Pogo “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Remember he cannot create, he can only distort what God has created. Yet, humanity, of all the creatures in the universe, we are gifted with free will, or cursed, depending on your perspective. We took it upon ourselves to eat of the tree of knowledge. We opened ourselves to the evil that God had locked away from us. Tradition is how the serpent keeps us static, complacent, fat and happy. God did not say to us stay at home and watch TV, NO, He said go forth and multiply, He said go into the world and make disciples, 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. [Romans 8:19-23] Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Amen.