“We’ve never done it that way.” It’s a threat, or so it feels to many church leaders. Or it’s a warning or an incantation against change of any sort. Some have said they are the last words of the institutional church. We’ve never done it that way.
Yet, it's not hard to understand the desire to cling to what has always been. There is security in sameness. There is comfort in familiarity. Indeed, there seems to be an inherent good in preservation. Paul tells the Thessalonians to “hold fast to the traditions.” That seems to be a call to resist change, to keep doing the same things over and over. We like our traditions; they define us. “We’ve been doing them since day one,” we say, “since the very beginning.”
But what are the traditions Paul says to cling to? Are they indeed the practices that we have been doing since day one? Are Paul’s traditions the behaviors, actions, and words that we have repeated since we learned the faith? Ritual is important even now. Repeated actions can give us a sense of belonging, connection, and understanding. We partake of the Lord’s Supper again and again, and sometimes something profound shines through.
Perhaps, however, what Paul is really trying to get the Thessalonians to consider is not so much the doing but the foundation. The tradition is the love that fosters the behaviors. That’s what we stand firm on. Actions change by necessity. Words develop new meanings and understandings. But love that gives birth to words and actions remains the same. Stand firm on that love. That’s what has been with you since day one.
Loving God, teach us to love, even when it is hard, even when it takes effort. Strengthen us to hold fast to what makes us your church. Amen.
Following the return from exile to Babylon, the people of God have much work to do to restore the city of Jerusalem. Haggai is one of the prophets sent by God to encourage them. God promises future material blessings for the people and a time of peace. The psalmist praises God and declares that future generations will tell the stories of God’s wonderful works. In Second Thessalonians, Paul addresses a group that is disturbed because they think they have missed the return of Christ. He assures them that they have not missed the time and admonishes them to persevere in their faith. In Luke, Jesus is asked about marriage in the resurrection, but he focuses on God as the God of the living.
Read Haggai 1:15b–2:9. When have you relied on God’s promises for the future? How did your faith in God’s provision keep you focused on the long-term goal?
Read Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21. How can you share God’s majesty and justice with the next generations?
Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17. How do you live a disciplined life, trusting in the Lord whether or not the end is near?
Read Luke 20:27-38. How can you be open to the unexpected ways God will answer your questions?
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