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September 2, 2018 Traditions Mark 7:14

Every branch of society has its own traditions: some good, some bad, and some inconsequential. For example, for Mexicans, if you go to the river get wet but do not wet your head is for sure you will get sick. Another tradition is for white people, and some immigrants more Americanized; when the children are 18, they are not children anymore. They need to get out and survive for themselves. They need to get a job and support themselves. For many Latinos they need to get married to leave the house. For Mexicans, if you get too cold, 50 degrees cold, you for sure will get sick.  It doesn’t matter if you are Russian, or Chinese, or other ethnic group there are cultural traditions.

Something I learned when I arrived at the US is that in America we celebrate Thanksgiving with a turkey and a family reunion. This tradition was new for me because in my country we do not have it.  In Mexican culture we have the Mexican piñata.  At the beginning we used piñatas only for Christmas, but now it is a must in every birthday party.

There is a valid reason for a tradition. For example, giving a child money when they lose a tooth. The tooth fairy, teaches children not to be afraid of changes; they are growing and loosing teeth.

Celebrating Some traditions are helpful, to remember special occasions in history. We celebrate once a year the 4th of July to remember that freedom was not free. People had to fight to give us freedom. It is a good tradition.

Some traditions are irrelevant; with time some lost the meaning.  In the past people use to arrange their own children’s marriage. This was common through history because of the lack of mobility. But today it is absolute.

Some traditions are good, some others are bad. But some also become outdated and run counter to their original intention. For instance, in the past the Catholic mass was performed in Latin. Latin was the universal language, but time changed, Latin is a dead language, no one understands Latin anymore.

Last week we read in the Gospel reading about the disciples breaking the rules. They dared to eat with dirty hands. Washing our hands before we eat is something we do today for hygiene.

But in our reading last week we saw that coming from Jerusalem, the scribes and Pharisees brought an accusation to Jesus concerning His disciples (Mark 7:1-5). Why don’t they do that?

Wash their hands before eating, and after coming the market place wash their hands? Was this wrong? No. To us is hygiene.  But for them this was not about hygiene, but about certain outward forms and ceremonies.

There were many tedious and unnecessary rules and regulations about washing, with meticulous details stipulating which part of the hand should have water poured upon them from which part of the cup at which stage of the procedure. And how they should use the fist in cleansing.

It is evident from the Gospel, that this was what had happened with the traditions that the scribes and Pharisees had built up around God-given Scripture.

These Jewish traditions were probably started with good intention to prevent people from sinning, but ended (in some cases) as a set of rules and regulations impossible for ordinary people to keep.  This in turn served to confirm (in their own mind) the supposed superiority of those who taught them.

Traditions are good or bad?

Traditions in the church?

We have our won traditions in the Lutheran church. We light candles, is it good? It looks cool!!! But it is because in the past it was no electric power. It is a nice tradition.

We have a nice carpet. Almost all churches have carpet on the floor. We sit on very comfortable pews.  In this church we say that alcoholic beverages are good drinking them in the right amount. But there are other churches where drinking even a drop of alcohol is bad, sinful. We take communion with wine; some other churches take communion with grape juice.

But how are we to know which ones are traditions and which ones are not?

 About communion the Bible is very clear, Jesus used wine. What about other things?

We Christians have the 10 commandments to know if something is bad or good.  For example, a woman called me during the week and told me, should I stay with my husband?  There is not adultery, there is not a big reason to split, but the feeling they had 35 years ago when they met is not there anymore. She said, we need to pray to know what is the will of God; to stay together or not.  Brothers and sisters, that is easy. What God put together may not man put asunder. Stay together as husband and wife.

The problem is that we add to God’s commandments. We make God’s commandments bigger. Longer, more difficult to follow.

Jesus our God was very clear when we said…

Mark 7

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

Jesus said, “Everybody hear me, listen up and understand. What we eat does not defile us.”  It is what we say and not more important than what we really believe.  Our actions that are important.

Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of the traditionalism of the scribes and Pharisees by quoting Scripture.

Mark 7:6-8

6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

Jesus is saying, traditions, washing hands, following rules is not what Jesus wants from us.

If I follow the rule but do not believe Jesus, if I follow the rules but do not love God, it is just not right.

Attitudes about dress codes, dancing, television, lighting candles, wearing a robe, may all fall into this category.  On the other hand, likewise, the rebellions against these attitudes may become traditions in their own right, and equally enslave.

Sometimes we try to use very complicated and elaborated traditions, ways of worship to try to impress people around us. But the truth is Jesus wants our life the way it is. He called us out of darkens to be light to the world. To tell other people about Him.

Psalm 51:17
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Jesus call us to bring people to the light of Jesus. Yes, sometimes we need to elaborate beautiful liturgies, and songs and Bible studies, but the Gospel message is easy.

Jesus loves you, he died to give you life.  Jesus will abide in you.

Amen.

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