February 24, 2016

Tell Me Again

An event organizer encouraged a community leader to attend a meeting and after it was over he said, “Tell me again…Why am I here?” It occurs to me that we often have a similar situation in the church. We invite friends and family to join us in worship, but they then leave the service thinking, “Tell me again…Why did I come?” Unfortunately, in today’s culture the functions of the early church are often swallowed up by programs, entertainment and tradition. The fellowship of believers is described by Luke, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles… And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Luke 2:42-43, 47b NIV).

1 comment:

Steve Corey said...


-----“Tradition” can be a deceiving concept. The word passes down to us from the Latin “traditio”, expressing the act of handing over. Although the word’s meanings in our language are somewhat broad, this sense of “handed down” or “passed around” (more loosely) is not lost in any of its breadth. Yet, a little oxymoron in a Merriam-Webster presentation of the word’s usage illustrates the danger of tradition. After defining a more particular meaning of the word as “characteristic manner, method, or style”, it offers the example, “[in the best liberal tradition]“. This same dictionary exposes the heart of the word “liberal” as being, “4: not literal or strict: LOOSE [a liberal translation] 5: BROAD-MINDED; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms.” Every mind is defined by this oxymoron.
-----Nothing is more naturally traditional than language. Yet it is so individuated by the personal understandings, perceptions, and habitual usages of each linguistic participant that often communication is more thought to be had than actually achieved. This is due to the unavoidably liberal use of the traditional meaning most words become. The effect of this “liberal tradition” is that few of us can read Middle English although it was our language before American English ever was. Tradition can be a deceiving concept.
-----This same process and effect is what I refer to by “the church’s patina”. Passing around cultural concepts massaged by God’s Word leads to a few concepts surviving fad phases to actually become passed down instead of just around. Mostly they are blended into or added onto similar or parallel concepts as modifications. But the effect is the same. After a generation or two or three of children mimicking mommies and daddies (which happens at subtle levels regardless of how much the child might hate the parents,) habitual pattern becomes tradition, for examples, the Mennonite practice of separating the men and women in their worship service, approximately umpty-nine different ways to baptize, or serve communion, or view creation, and certainly habitual pattern becoming tradition is seen in all the various songs and hymns which set the communal blood astir with spiritual adrenaline.
-----Tradition’s dangers are largely alleviated by the truth (truth is pretty useful in everything.) Truth is like a chain. If I want it, then I must make the link that is my present thought validly attach to a concept validly attached to its antecedent concept, ad infinitum, until finally the last link attaches to a reality of such shape as God defines real to be.
-----A few such chains can actually be formed, but not many. The links of most traditional knowledge and practices in the church disappear only a few links back and then just point in a direction over which an extensive blank space begins at approximately some Biblical tidbit or piece of actually known first century history. This is the mental life in which we must proceed with our beliefs, each of us being “…fully convinced in his own mind.” (Rom 14:5) And except for traditional chains deliberately linked to unbiblical sources, this “church patina” can be found acceptable by two of Paul’s statements crossing: “…we see in a mirror dimly,” and, “…we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge’. ‘Knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up,” (I Cor 13:12a and I Cor 8:1b). For its acceptability is not so much in its ability to be held as it is in our being able to dismiss it without sending it away. Light can shine through such stuff, but only as through a lampshade.

Love you all,
Steve Corey