1 Corinthians 11.17-26, 33
Psalm 40.7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17 Resp. 1 Corinthians 11:26b
Tradition has the ability to endow anything with power. If someone had just come up with trick-or-treating on Halloween, everyone would agree that it is probably not a good idea, but it is a tradition, so we are obligated. It has been done, so we keep on doing it. For some people, religion is just a matter of tradition. On one level this is good. A baby is born, and without really knowing why, the parents who have not been to church in years start planning the baptism. Traditions have power for good. But we cannot stop there. Traditions are fun, but some are good and some are bad and some are just useless. Why would I believe whatever stories and practices my parents handed on to me just because they were handed on? We might think of Christianity as an old religion, steeped in tradition, but it is merely 2000 years old. Eighty generations ago, it was brand new. The fact that we are Christians means that someone, probably not even 80 generations ago, abandoned their ancient traditions in favor of what they thought was the truth. I would rather believe in Jesus like one of those ancient converts, abandoning all traditions because they had found something real, than simply because my father and mother believed in him.
When we speak of tradition in Christianity, we do not mean solemn old practices handed down for generations. A Christian tradition is something else. We believe that there was a man who was also God. He walked on earth and spoke to people. In Jesus Christ, the divine entered the world. If Jesus were walking on earth today, I would go and listen to every word he had to say, but I cannot go to Jesus now. My only connection to Jesus is through tradition. We receive Communion because this is what he told us to do. We read the Gospel because these are the words that were handed on. It is the closest we can come to sitting at his feet. Christian tradition is our link to Jesus. The only way I can know what he said is if someone who heard him will tell me, and if this information has to come to me secondhand or 80th-hand, I will take it, however I can get it. Christian traditions, unlike human traditions, do not gain their power from generations of practice, but from their source, Jesus Christ.