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Treasures New and Old

Jesus said to them, Therefore every scribe who is instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like  the master of a house, who brings out from his storehouse things both new   and   old. (Matthew 13:52)

There are few words more emotionally charged than the word, "tradition".  Some people thrive on it, like Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof".  Others wish to free themselves completely from its lingering influence.

These differences are not simply regional or generational. Entire denominations or Christian affiliations are characterized by their attitudes towards tradition.

Of course, the designation "traditional" or "non-traditional" depends on the standpoint of the observer (some Catholics view even the staidest of Anglicans as "non-traditional"). But though all may not agree on particular designations, all agree that there is a wide spectrum of attitudes towards tradition. Some describe tradition positively as rich and time-tested; while others view it negatively as meaningless and archaic. On the other hand, many welcome non-traditional contemporary Christian movements as spirit-led and liberating; while others call them faddish and fanatical.

As a result of these varying attitudes we have different churches, some “traditional” and others “non-traditional”.  Alternatively, some churches have separate  “traditional” and “non-traditional” worship services (which effectively function as different churches).  This may seem like a good solution, but in fact it leads to a serious problem.  Christians are forced to choose one alternative to the exclusion of the other. It's like having to choose one color which is YOUR color.  Everything you wear, must be that color.  Not only you, but your whole family, and those you associate with as well.

Through exclusion, our spiritual lives are constricted and limited.  Through perpetual neglect, we fail to develop an appreciation and understanding of alternatives. We do not understand, identify with nor cooperate with those whose preferences differ.  We absolutely fail to fulfill Jesus' prayer:

...I pray that they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in You, that they also may be one in us: that the  world  may believe that You have sent me.  And the glory which You gave me I have given them, so  that they may be one, even as we are one:  I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the  world  may  know  that You have sent me, and have loved them, as You hast loved me. (John 17:21-23)

Because of how we segregate ourselves, we are not one:  so the world does not believe in Jesus, nor do they see His love in us.

A couple of years ago, I attended a joint Sunday morning service held by my non-traditional charismatic church together with an Episcopal church. As we worshipped I could sense the “dry bones” of Christ’s body coming together, and joining sinews beginning to form (Ezekiel 37). I personally was deeply stirred – for I had attended Episcopal church as a boy, until my parents stopped participating in what to them was purely symbolic ritual.

After the service, I overheard some kids from my church talking about the communion. They had never before attended a communion where wine (not grape juice) was served, or where a common cup was used.  "Ew, that stuff smelled strange," they said.  "And that dirty cup, yuck!"  These were the comments of children, but I suspect many parents privately harbored similar thoughts.  I felt utterly disheartened that they could not step out from within their enclosed spiritual world and behold the breathtaking beauty of their common faith.

Jesus indeed prayed that we would be one, so it will come to pass. When, we cannot tell.  But until it does, the world shall not be reconciled to Him.  (2 Cor. 5:18-20)

Prayer: Father, we have failed, we and our fathers before us.  We do not love each other, so the world does not know Your love.  Have mercy on us, change our hearts.  Help us to appreciate "Treasures new and old", the spiritual riches of the traditional churches, as well as the fresh insights of the non-traditional. Father, fulfill Jesus' prayer through us, for we pray in His Name.

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Copyright © 2002 CrossPollen
Last Revised: April 27, 2002

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