2nd Thursday after Pentecost

Numbers 20:1–13, Jeremiah 35:1–19, Matthew 15:1–20

Traditions are wonderful things. They can bring peace and order. They can help a person find themselves and understand where they came from, and what has shaped them to this point.

Traditions can also blind us. While slavery was not a “tradition”, the practices that had to be lived through enforced something very much like the worst instances of tradition, blind adherence. Moses faced the Israelites whose very identities were tied into slavery (perhaps even more than being Israelite). With those tethers severed, the Israelites found themselves wondering who they were. In the midst of trials and fears, they (like us) tried to return to what they knew, even if it wasn’t good for them, or was blind (really, all those rich foods weren’t for them).

Then there are odd and strongly held traditions that seem to be pointless, but result is something positive. The Rechabites did not drink wine, still lived in tents, and did not act as farmers. All of that because their ancestor said not to. One could easily draw a line saying that the Rechabites’ tradition tied them to their past. In their case, it certainly did. Yet, something has to be inferred here. God praises their seemingly pointless traditions and their faithfulness in following them. With verse 19 we see the “fruit” of the tradition. The Rechabites appear to not only have followed their ancestor’s traditions, they also were faithful to God. The two, it can be inferred, were deeply tied together.

According to Jesus, the Pharisees and scribes didn’t have their traditions tied so closely with a relationship with God. Jesus was pretty blunt with them. Their traditions blinded them that their relationship with God was damaged, if not non-existent. Which is even more devastating, as the intent of their traditions was to be better Jews, fulfilling the Law perfectly. As we now understand, however, fulfilling the Law perfectly is not quite the same as living it perfectly.

1) What are your most precious church traditions? Do they truly draw you closer to God? Setting aside your emotional attachment, do they draw others closer to God?

2) The Rechabites’ traditions echo similar “outdated” traditions of some denominations (like the Nazarenes). How do you think the Rechabites lived it successfully (being called out as faithful by God), while many churches (and denominations) don’t?