A Church on a Mission: When Our Traditions Become Our Idols

by | Dec 18, 2022 | Podcast, Sermons

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Preacher: Pastor Chuck Holiday

Scripture: Acts 6:8-15

When our traditions become idols we can love church and reject Jesus. Even good traditions can become idols. We can end up making the means of grace substitutes for grace and missing Jesus and terribly mistreating people. 


Heavenly Father we thank you for these ancient words Jesus you are the desire of the Nations we do pray that you would bind all peoples in one heart and mind with your gospel

teach us how to face suffering in our own persecution

Lord with joy just as we see your Apostles rejoicing that they were counted as Worthy of the name of Jesus open our hearts that we may receive your word for us this day and Jesus we pray this in your mighty name amen you may be seated

jealousy harassment Civil Disobedience violence you know it sounds like uh all the the makings for a great Hollywood Blockbuster movie right uh or maybe the headlines from the 2020 election season uh but but no alas uh this is not uh just some drama that’s been drummed up for uh to sell papers or to sell movies it’s Acts chapter 5 verses 17 through 42. and this linked the passage is all about jealousy power position persecution Civil Disobedience and and violence uh it’s about deep loyalties and the consequences that they bring anyone who tells you that that being a Christian is boring uh then they obviously have not read the history of the early church and at the same time anyone who believes that being a Christian and following Jesus is just going to magically make your life easy and trouble free they haven’t taken the time to read the book of Acts and the account of the early church for Max 5 17-42 it’s very clear that the being a follower of Jesus Christ is difficult it’s controversial and it’s even painful at times it means coming into conflict with a con conflict with the spiritual Powers the authorities of this world and often uh in the process even experiencing persecution and and pain and suffering that comes with that persecution but acts 5 17-42 also tells us of something amazing that’s completely counter-intuitive and completely counter cultural that being a follower of Jesus Christ that means that even in the midst of persecution and suffering and pain there’s joy and perhaps even more astonishing as followers of Christ we have joy because of the persecution and suffering and the pain that it brings it doesn’t make sense from a worldly mindset at all but is a church on a mission as a Spirit-filled member of the body of Christ acts 5 17-42 is a lesson that we must learn and even Embrace if we’re to live and what’s becoming uh ever increasing post-christian culture you know I saw a an article uh this week that documented that in 2022 for the first time uh since such data has been collected that ing in England less than 50 percent of the population identifies themselves as Christian and you might just say well that’s England right we’re we’re Americans who cares what’s happening in England uh but most researchers will tell you that that Europe is a strong indicator of the trends that will soon develop in America most often they’re just ahead of where we will end up and we’re already seeing evidence of that according to Pew research in 2011 uh 75 percent of Americans identified themselves as Christians in 2021 that number shrunk to 63 percent in just a 10 years that’s a 12 decrease in 2011 roughly 18 percent of Americans were not affiliated with any religion identifying as either agnostic atheist or nothing in particular and 2021 10 years later that number grew to 29 percent the 11 increase we’re just talking in a 10 year period the slides happening and we had better begin learning what we need to learn from the early church both in terms of how we are to Faithfully live as witnesses to the resurrected Jesus and and what we can expect from an increasingly unchristian culture in the book of Acts has a lot to teach us on both fronts especially these verses that we’re looking at together this morning you know two weeks ago at the beginning of chapter 5 we saw the first great threat to the Gospel Mission and the church and that was an internal threat and it was that threat of spiritual pride and hypocrisy that we saw in ananias and Sapphira uh there was and this was such a great threat that Satan had put in their hearts that God struck them both dead and in the process he put the fear of the Lord in the hearts of his people this week we turn our attention from an internal threat to the Gospel Mission to an external threat and in reality it’s not the first sign of that external threat in Acts 4 a few weeks ago we saw how Peter and John were brought before the same Jewish Council of the Sadducees because they were proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus to the people who had gathered there after the healing of that lame man they were so astonished of what they were seeing they all knew him they all had seen him every day and here he was jumping around and rejoicing and they were proclaiming the resurrected Jesus Peter proclaimed the gospel to them seeing this healed lame man that that Council they really found there was nothing they could do and so they charged them not to speak or to teach at all in the name of Jesus to which Peter said to them whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than the God you must judge for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and what we have heard they were then released and they went back to the rest of the disciples who who promptly gathered together and prayed to the Lord for boldness they prayed for boldness that they would continue to be proclaiming the the resurrected Jesus to continue to proclaim the gospel even in the face of this external threat well once again God did we saw last week wondrous signs around the Temple of Solomon’s Portico through the apostles people were being healed demon possessed folks for being of demons were being cast out of folks uh and we’re told that last week that multitudes of men and women were added to the number of those who were being saved will no sooner that the gospel begun to bear fruit that the Sadducees got their noses out of joint about it again we’re told that the high priest and all the Sadducees they rose up they were filled with jealousy we’re told and out of their jealousy they had the apostles arrested they had them put in prison now notice that the Sadducees were not concerned about the spiritual well-being of their people at all that wasn’t their motivation they were jealous they didn’t like uh the the attention that the apostles were getting uh they were jealous of their position the high esteem that we were told last week that all the people held the apostles in and the apostles posed a threat a threat to the Sadducees own power and position and so they had them arrested and thrown in prison then in verse 19 we’re told that in the night the an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors brought them out and said to them go and stand in the temple and speak to the people the words of life and that’s exactly what they did and that’s exactly where they were found the next morning but before we move on to we need to to consider to stop and consider something I think important about this uh this was not some Rogue Angel who saw the apostles and had pity on them and took action when the scriptures speak of the Angel of the Lord uh it’s it’s not talking about some Rogue messenger uh this is God’s Own messenger they’re acting as the agent of God himself speaking his word doing what God has told them to do and so what this is telling us is that God himself therefore intervened on behalf of the Apostles he brought them out of bondage told them to continue proclaiming the gospel to continue proclaiming the words of life to the people this was nothing less than the will of God which will be important to remember as we get a little further on In this passage to summarize what happens next this is a long passage and I wish we could go verse by verse but I got to summarize it somehow here the next morning the high priest called together the council and the Senate of the people of Israel then he called they called for the apostles to be brought before the the council but they found that while the doors were closed and the guards were still standing guard outside the the doors the apostles were gone and everyone was perplexed until they got word that the apostles were right back in the temple teaching and preaching to the people about Jesus they had been rescued from the threat by God but in obedience to the word of God they put themselves Right Back In Harm’s Way this time the captain and the officers of the temple they went and they got them but not by force this time because we’re told they were worried about what the people would do to them they were worried about their own position they were worried they’d get stoned the fact the apostles were not taken by for force it also means that the apostles went with them willingly they went with them willingly they could have caused a riot they could have incited the people to rise up in their defense to fight for their freedom they could have in fact that’s what the the Sadducees were worried about but they didn’t they willingly they respectfully and they graciously and even submissively went with them when they were asked to go now when they arrived in front of the council the high priest began to to question them and his line of questioning was all about two things it was all about power and it was all about position and the two things the Sadducees those were the two things the Sadducees held dear the most he accused them of two things number one defying their order not to teach and preach in Jesus name and number two that they were intending to pin the blame for Jesus’s death on them that’s what they were accused of that’s what they were most worried about uh they had no interest in the truth or the falsehood of the claims that the apostles were making all they cared about was their own power their own authority their own position as long as their power and position were secure they could have cared less about the people but this moment gave Peter the opportunity to speak up in their defense and he said on behalf of all the apostles we must obey God rather than man they were under Authority but it was not ultimately the Jewish Authority that they were under they were respectful they were gracious they were even subservient to the Jewish authorities unless the Jewish authorities directly contradicted the authority of God unless it directly contradicted the word of God that had been given to them and here we have the very basis for Christian civil disobedience if our Civil Authorities call us to disobey the word of God our loyalty to our King Jesus then we’re called to disobey a civil our Civil Authorities and to remain faithful to God our savior and King Jesus now how does this work out practically right well I mean I think we can go back to the early days of the the pandemic and kind of see how this this played out remember we faced the shutdown uh and it was done it was it was enacted and the interest of Public Health well in that case we weren’t being singled out we weren’t being just shut down or silenced as Christians uh and it was not a permanent shutdown uh and in that case we were called to be obedient to our Civil Authorities now had we been singled out and churches had been told that we were dangerous to society and could no longer gather together could no longer teach and preach in the name of Jesus well then we would have been called to disobey our Civil Authorities and to be loyal to our ultimate Authority gee that’s what our country was founded upon right the Puritans they fled England because of persecution they were forbidden to gather and worship by the church of England by the way yes it’s one of those dirty little truths about our Anglican forefathers they weren’t always right

if we’re forbidden to gather if we’re for forbidden to to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ then we’re called to obey our number one Authority but to respectfully and graciously disobey our Civil Authorities and that’s exactly what the apostles did they continued to share the gospel graciously with the Jewish authorities who were presenting them who are persecuting them and who are threatening their lives friends they were they were not uh they were not just arguing for the truth of the Gospel this wasn’t just a debate that was happening on the council floor I know we can kind of sometimes look at it that way who’s going to win the debate who’s going to be right they were proclaiming the gospel for the Salvation of their fellow Jews even for those who were against them and they proclaimed three things Peter proclaimed on behalf of the Apostle Apostles that God raised Jesus from the grave that God exalted him as Savior of the world and therefore he has ultimate Authority and that God gave and still gives his holy spirit to all who obey by putting their faith in Jesus they were inviting their persecutors into a relationship with God through Jesus the savior of the world that they themselves had had it over to the Roman authorities to be killed they cared enough about them and wanted them to find Salvation in Christ you know it reminds me of uh dare I say this of a Seinfeld episode uh you know Elaine was uh was dating a man named putty I did mention this years ago but you don’t remember it anyway and they got into an argument about going to hell and Elaine discovered that putty thought that she was going to hell and she rightly gets mad at him about it not because he thinks that she’s going to hell but because he didn’t seem to care enough to uh to try to save her the apostles had Grace for their persecutors because of the grace that paid themselves had received from God They too had abandoned Jesus Peter had denied Jesus three times but Jesus so loved them that he reached back into their lives and saved them by his grace alone and they wanted their persecutors these Apostles wanted their persecutors to know that Jesus wants to forgive them as well well their gracious efforts were not received the council wanted to kill them uh after when they had heard the gospel that was when a Pharisee named gamaldio a well-respected rabbi spoke up and his advice was to let them go because as we’ve seen in the past and some of these movements if it’s of God it will succeed if it’s not they will be dispersed and it’ll come to nothing and even worse if it is of god then they’ll be guilty of having opposed what God was trying to do but before you give Gamaliel too much credit know that he wasn’t a friend to Christianity nor does his logic work out in all circumstances uh but he was not a friend to Christians in fact he was Paul’s rabbi he was the one who Paul uh then Saul studied under the same Paul who would become so driven by Zeal and hatred for the Christians that he would lead the charge of the persecutions that are to come uh more on that later as we will get further into the book of Acts but the council did take gamaliel’s advice so the council had the apostles beaten just as Jesus was beaten charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus and then they just let them go but as the apostles left something really nothing short of miraculous happened they weren’t relieved just to have had their lives spared they were not just so frightened that they ran away and hid no we’re told that they were filled with joy the fact that they were counted as worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus see these guys their lives have been so transformed by the gospel that they were filled with joy even in the face of their own suffering and pain and persecution these same men who wants themselves had run away from Jesus and his greatest moment of Need for fear for their own safety and their own well-being these men had abandoned Jesus and filled with shame for their cowardice had been so transformed by the God who loves them and forgave them and restored them that they now found joy and their suffering for Christ

oh and did they stop proclaiming the gospel openly and publicly no they didn’t uh their loyalty to God and His grace was bigger than their the own threat of personal harm and persecution so so what can we in a in an increasingly post-christian culture take from from this passage and I believe there’s three important lessons that for us as we continue to live the mission of the Gospel is the church and the world today number one as followers of Jesus Christ we should expect persecution we should expect persecution you know just go back and consider this passage and the apostles God rescued them from prison right that was awesome God miraculously came and saved them from that bondage and then he called them right back into Harm’s Way God doesn’t protect us always from all persecution sometimes he calls us right into it for the sake of the Gospel you did not spare his own son sometimes calls us into suffering for Jesus name’s sake but at the same time I think we have to be careful what we call persecution we have to be very careful what we call persecution every suffering every every pain every Injustice that we think we experience it doesn’t mean that it’s persecution sometimes people may exclude us sometimes people may avoid us leave us out not want to be around us not because we’re followers of Christ because but because more often we’ve probably been ungracious rude insensitive maybe completely oblivious to the situation as it’s really going on in that moment sometimes we can use the gospel as a sword in people’s lives and not as the healing medicine that it is in people’s lives it is true that if we’re not experiencing opposition from Satan or from other people then we’re probably not really sharing the gospel in the world at all but at the same time we have to be wise we have to be understanding about how we’re sharing the gospel with others which brings us to the second point that I think lesson that we must learn from acts 5 17-42 and the second lesson is this that we’re called to be respectful and gracious in the face of persecution

Our concern is for the Salvation of souls it’s not in trying to always win the debate or the argument a rejection of the Gospel message that we share with others is not a rejection of us we are not to take it personally when the apostles were taken by the Jewish authorities they didn’t fight back they didn’t incite a riot they could have but they respected the Civil Authorities they followed them willingly in Romans 12 the Apostle Paul he said it this way he says bless those who persecute you bless and do not curse them and then a little bit later in the chapter he said beloved never avenge yourselves but leave it to the wrath of God for it is written vengeance is mine I will repay says the Lord to the contrary if your enemy is hungry feed him if he’s thirsty give him something to drink for by so doing you will heat burning coals on his head do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good

the important lesson for us to learn as we continue to live into this increasing post-christian culture and then finally number three we learned this lesson when you’re persecuted for Jesus sake consider it joy that you who were once an enemy of God have been now by the grace of God have been counted as worthy to suffer for his name’s sake you know James 1 2 James says it this way count it all joy my brothers when you face when you meet Trials of various kinds friends we can expect persecution we can face it with Grace for our own persecutors and even Joy of being counted as worthy because of what Hebrews 12 tells us about Jesus our savior this is what it tells us that Jesus is the founder and the Perfecter of our faith for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throneka of the Throne of God and Friends he did it for you and for me he did it because he so loves the world because he loves the world and Longs for them to know know the joy Joy of his salvation let’s pray

Heavenly Father this passage is heavy

none of us want the face suffering and pain and persecution we don’t want to be alienated from people in our lives we don’t want to be thought of as the as the crazy cast out that no one wants around it hurts it’s painful

father will you help us as we seek this mission that you have called us on to continue proclaiming your gospel but to realize it’s not about us

that whether someone receives it or not is not an indictment on us personally

it’s the work that you Holy Spirit are doing in their lives holy spirit will you give us wisdom and discernment to be gracious to be gentle be kind to be Discerning in how we share the gospel with others that it would never be about us winning an argument

it would be about the salvation of the souls that we are communicating with

father we ask that when we do face persecution for your namesake that you would fill us with all joy remembering that once we were your enemies but now you have counted us as Worthy by the grace of God Alone to suffer for his namesake

and may your mission continue

through our lives as we live out our lives as your Witnesses in this world Jesus we pray this in your mighty name amen

They receded so great to see you all this morning boy you look so festive and a lot so you got your plaid on I’m not sure what that means but it looks nice honored to be able to open God’s word again of course this morning if we get closer to Christmas and just anticipate the great coming of Our Lord. Let’s pray together God would you come and by your spirit now help us help me to see and speak clearly what you have for us your church today and may we all have ears and hearts to hear what you want to say to us and especially we pray that we would see Jesus again more glorious and beautiful than ever his name we pray amen you know I preached this section from acts quite a few times actually in the course of my Ministry and uh saw something new this time that I just never saw before and it’s like I don’t know how I missed it you know it’s one of those things it’s like wow not that the other sermons were inappropriate or false it’s just that there’s a like a key thing here that uh just never hit me before that’s in verse 13 and 14 and the question is like why did they get so mad at Stephen he was the first martyr at the church you know just uh steal the Thunder for a couple weeks from now when we get back to acts but um this didn’t go well for Stephen in the in the Earthly sense I mean they they got so mad at him for what he said to in the defense to the uh Jewish leaders that they killed him or smarter the church and um but but what was it that triggered them and it’s it’s pretty specific in verse 13 and 14 this fellow never stops speaking against this holy place that is the temple and against the law for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the Customs Moses handed down to us this is what triggered their rage the conversation was not specifically about the deity of Christ whether Christ is the Messiah or not that was all you know in in part of a lengthier uh thought process but the thing they couldn’t stand was the fact that

he’s going to change everything about what we love about church

and and you know from our reading in Mark and there are many other gospel readings where we see the same thing this is what they ultimately tried Jesus for this is the thing that tipped the scales in terms of we’ve got to destroy this guy why he was teaching New Traditions for the church

the implications of Jesus the Messiah coming the one who is going to fulfill all the Old Testament traditions was that we’re not going to get to do Church the way we like it anymore

now think about that

I mean it’s a really scary thing to think no no you know I know they were the Jews and we’re the Christians they were the Old Testament Church these were the people of God who had the word of God in the next chapter in in Stephen’s defense he actually refers to the Old Testament Jews in the wilderness as the church the Ecclesia in the wilderness this was the church that rejected Jesus

because of the implications it had from the way they could do Church

isn’t that a little sobering it’s it scared me when I thought about that it’s possible for us to love church and reject Jesus

you know uh Debbie I got to go to Messiah last night now I love them the sights the first time we ever actually got to go and see a live performance and it was just beyond uh anything we we could have comprehended the powerful words of scripture you know just the whole thing is just word for word out of the scripture with the most beautiful music probably ever composed I mean it was just it’s just a wonderful experience you know I thought that you know a lot of these people probably don’t know Jesus but but they go to the Messiah every every Christmas

right and and maybe a lot of these people like us will be in church on Sunday morning because it’s it’s just a wonderful tradition

now so let’s talk about our traditions for a minute okay because I think this is going to get real relevant for us and our just our personal lives hopefully why do we love our Traditions why are we so rooted in our customs and our Traditions well a lot of them are good A lot of them are god-given you know a lot of the the traditions we love are from God like the Lord’s Supper I mean that’s not something we figured out but we did have to figure out how to do it right and churches can fight and have wars and kill each other historically over the right way to do this I mean it’s a sad history but Christians killed other Christians because of a disagreement of how to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and I you know I’ve been in different Traditions I love the fact that we do it every Sunday a lot of churches don’t you know and Traditions are important uh they’re not meaningless they’re not they’re not um insignificant that is the furthest thing from the truth the reason that we struggle with this so much is because they are so important we love our Traditions rightly so

for a number of reasons one is we’re we’re sensual beings I mean God created us with bodies with ears that appreciate music and eyes that appreciate Beauty a sense of feeling loved you know there’s something about being together with people that you’ve done life with the connection you feel when you’re in a in a worshiping community of people that that you know and you’ve you know you’ve buried each other’s loved ones and you’ve baptized each other’s babies and there’s a there’s a sense of connection in those Traditions that’s God ordained it’s the way he made us to worship together not in isolation as a family of Believers our Traditions are are wonderful because they’re so powerful because we are made sensual beings now God took great pains in the Old Testament to make the temple a beautiful place

because God created us to appreciate Beauty and and to appreciate impact meaning you know so our liturgies and our music and our even the architecture is is not insignificant it’s it’s the way we’re made to know God into and to be drawn to him through our senses it’s through our traditions music and architecture and rituals are important

they ground us you know there’s there’s a world of psychology there’s a book that’s been become very very popular in the last decade it’s called our bodies keep the score and the basic premises your your physical body remembers what your mind forgets and uh for instance my wife still struggles to get uh she’s with venison it’s being cooked it reminds her of the first time she had venison when she was pregnant and throwing up all the time with every meal and so to this day if she gets the smell of venison cooking it can kind of give her a little queasy stomach you know now you have things like that don’t you sometimes people have seasonal affect disorder where at a particular time of year they just get depressed and they don’t know why or what happened but it was the time of year when things were hard or some tragic thing happened in their lives and you know our bodies remember uh painful traumatic things that are that our minds don’t even always recall but it works the positive way too our bodies remember the good the good things some of you will just have an immediate hopeful cheering wonderful feeling when you go back into a Christmas setting you know it’s it’s one of the reasons Christmas means so much to our society because most of us can access some Christmas memory you know if it just it was it was a moment of connection that we rarely got in our families the rest of the year you know it was a it’s just a time you know for gift giving yes but I mean it had special connection to deeper spiritual realities that just lift our Spirits again right I mean our Traditions are terribly important it’s why as a nation most of us will celebrate Christmas Christian or not

because of that the associations it brings with us okay so so you know Customs traditions they’re good many of them are god-given some of them we come up with on our own but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong it can be very helpful and and um you know one of the challenges of being a new mom you know is thinking okay what are our Christmas tradition is going to be and and uh you know because I mean one of the struggles you know in a marriage is she has her traditions and he has his traditions and what are we gonna do foreign sometimes they coincide beautifully but often they don’t you know um so but but my point is this is not about Traditions not meaning something this is the opposite Traditions are terribly important and in our church traditions and our family traditions are very important things like Advent you know what what do you do for Advent and how do you celebrate Christmas eve those are really good questions important questions but here’s the warning our Traditions can become idols


think of the traditions and the Customs that God has actually given us like the Lord’s Supper like baptism I mean as a pastor over a year many years and David’s experiences at all times people call out of the blue who want their babies baptized and and have no interest in being part of the church or going to church or but they do want their baby baptized right uh it’s a good tradition it’s a god-given god ordained tradition but it can become an idol completely detached from the thing it’s supposed to point us to the Lord’s Supper I mean you know the church is assumed certain wings of the church parts of the church are consumed with being able to be at the Lord’s supper at the Lord’s table uh whether they heard a word or the sermon or not or any I mean just as long as they get to partake you know it can become an idol detached from the meaning of the thing and um that’s that’s what Jesus is referring to in the scripture the gospel we read and back in Mark 7 and there are actually many passages in Jesus ministry that are similar to this he was constantly bumping up against the Pharisees over seemingly really little things like did the disciples washed their hands correctly before they hate that was a big thing for these Jewish leaders very offensive to them and you know that’s the context here in in Jesus said you know they observed many other Traditions such as Washington cups and pitchers and so forth and and uh the question is why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with unclean hands and he replied Isaiah was right when he prophesied prophesied about two hypocrites he said these people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me they worship me in vain their teachings are about rules taught by men

you have let go of the commands of God and are holding to the traditions my friends even the god-ordained Traditions what would call the means of Grace

things like reading our Bibles in public in church and worship singing of hymns and songs spiritual songs which God commands and the Lord’s table even the things the Traditions that God commands the means of Grace can become substitutes for Grace

you’re right

reading the Bible daily can be my checklist of God loves me now and he’s going to bless me because I had my devotions I said my prayers I went to church

I recited the Creed the means of Grace can become substitutes for Grace God God’s Gonna bless me now because I did what I was supposed to do you see how harmful that can become to our spiritual connection to God the means of Grace can actually block us from the presence of his spirit an awareness of our of our need for a savior

and our when our Traditions become idolatrous they can become stumbling blocks to others they can they can actually disconnect us our hearts from God and they can create they can cause us to become really mean to each other

look how mean they were to Stephen because he was saying the Messiah has come in some of our Traditions are not necessary any longer

whoa now he has to die

our traditions of reverence when we come into God’s holy place which are valid good traditions but they can become so sadly off-putting to people who come from other traditions

some people come into the in you know there’s a site I used to have a sign on my over the doors of my church entering the sanctuary the Lord is in his holy place let all the Earth keep silent yeah we love to put a scripture verse you know with our with our Traditions right

when we planted our church in Orlando it was very different Traditions not right or wrong this is different people came in laughing and talking and it was so loud you could hardly start the service you had you had to crank the music way up before people even knew we were doing church and finally they’d settle down and we could now we could have a reverent moment you know just different ways of getting there you know but boy we can be mean to each other if if we don’t get it the way we’re used to now sometimes we’re super I think we look at this superficially just saying well I just want the way I want it I think it’s deeper than that I want it the way it’s been meaningful to me you know most of our our love for church is tied to a time in our lives when God met us in a specific context you know it was through specific song or a specific way of doing the Lord’s Supper you know it was it was it was in a specific context of worship that God met us and so it’s it’s deeply meaningful for us and very difficult to think of doing in another way right I mean this is not easy

I mean I’ll give you some obvious examples I think we can all agree with so we don’t I don’t want to throw a bomb in the middle of Christmas here um but think of you know for years those of you come from a Catholic tradition the mass had to be in Latin some of you old enough to remember when that changed well for those of you who knew the Latin mass that wasn’t necessarily a good day well now it’s just in English and everybody understands it and kind of lost some of the the richness no but obviously I think we can all say today yeah it’s a good thing that everybody can understand the words

you know Kathleen and I were talking because we ran into them at the Messiah last night and they had the words of the Messiah up on the screen you know number one they they really did a good job they put those words on the screen that did not look like a screen you know it didn’t destroy the beauty of the room at all it was amazing how they did that but I thought wow I’ve never heard the words of the Messiah like I heard them last night because I could see the words that was beautiful it was helpful but I imagine you know somewhere along the line they got some grief for putting the words on the wall when they you know I don’t know but but there are things um I’ll give you another one the King James version of the Bible I grew up on that you know I I understood it very few other people in our society who didn’t grow up with it understand what the words mean well you know it’s probably a good thing that we do the English Standard Version here on Sunday mornings right I think most of us would say yeah let’s not make our traditions an idol okay

but it’s hard

it’s hard you know when when um my family left we’re in a suburbs of Chicago for 19 years had all our babies there raised them in our at a Christian School in our church and they were all right there you know growing up with the kids they were baptized with and confirmed with and um you know it was a pretty

comfortable little safe place in a lot of ways and when we left there and went to Orlando to plant a church uh in 94. it was really different and and uh because we didn’t know anybody in the city not a person realtor helped me unpack the truck you know and uh

Christmas our first Christmas really really was tough I don’t think it hit us quite as hard as until then when we realized we don’t have any Christmas parties uh we we had Christmas children’s Christmas celebrations you know with so many kids it’s so well done and beautiful music and all the Christmas and we didn’t know where to go to church for Christmas Eve we didn’t have a church we had come to start a church but we didn’t have a church and so we finally found a sort of the equivalent of an 1122 in Orlando back in the 90s you know it was the up and coming and it did a really great job with their music program and we thought let’s go there and uh and we were going to do something really extravagant that we never did we were all going to go out to dinner afterwards you know as a family all six of us you know and splurs and uh we got to church probably 15 minutes early and they turned us away because they were full

we were all dressed up you know and nowhere to go

and I had been the pastor

you know my whole life I grew up my dad was a pastor now I’ve been a pastor for 20 years and and we couldn’t find a seat in church and I was like kids let’s go get some dinner and then we’ll come back for the next service well I never tried to eat dinner out on a restaurant on a Christmas Eve it wasn’t a restaurant anywhere in the city so we’re sitting at a 7-Eleven eating Sun Chips and drinking Slurpees

waiting for the next service and I said Merry Christmas kids

but we did get into the next service because we got there really early

and I think it hit me like it has never hit me before

what it must have been like for Jesus on Christmas

have you ever thought of what the traditions of Heaven might have been before he left

the music

the angel choir

that was his tradition

I can’t even imagine the beauty of music you know and God graciously gave him the echo a little echo of that at the at the stable you know he sent a choir just so Jesus could say hey it’s not all gone but oh my goodness goodness having to listen to that with human ears instead of God ears you know I can’t imagine uh imagine the the connection that he left the connection the custom of being face to face with the father and the spirit every moment of Eternity

and for the first time finding out what it feels like to be alone

to be hungry to be thirsty to be wet and can’t change his own diaper

but Jesus left everything familiar everything’s safe everything about him

he was the one the Angels were singing to

and now he’s just one of us

but he did it willingly on purpose to save us to redeem us to love us and to be loved by us my friends um so so when we think of our Christmas how can we do Christmas Eve what can we do with Christmas Eve that will be for others hold on to the traditions we love but what would it look like for us to invite others into

the real meaning of Christmas to prayerfully asked I don’t know what it looks like I had a lady putting up some lights yes a couple days ago and one of the neighbors you know we were talking and somehow Christmas Eve came up and she said well where do you guys go to church and I I told her you know um it might be somebody that God wants you to bring with on Christmas Eve Christmas day you know whether you come you know or you still wrapping presents in your family what would it look like for you to intentionally lead your family yeah it’s it’s it’s really a weird dilemma When Christmas comes on Sunday I think it’s it’s really a strange dilemma right because Lord knows we don’t want Jesus to interrupt Sunday uh Christmas I mean now what do you do I don’t know and and I’m not I’m not throwing shade on anybody who thinks we should stay home and celebrate the family I’m not saying that at all Christmas Eve you know Saturday night worship Jesus but but what would it look like to make sure that you know our family celebration or whatever it is there’s at least a moment to acknowledge who this is about you know it’s hey kids could I just read this Christmas story this morning before we destroy the paper wrapping paper and you know uh could could we pause for a minute to just think what what has Jesus done for us this you or or it might mean hey let’s unwrap The Presence at seven and eight and whenever as soon as the kids wake up and let’s go to church you know for an hour and let’s remember why we do this whatever it is to be intentional about it to not let the Traditions steal Christmas but let them draw us into Christmas and for ourselves for our own families but then what would it look like for us to reach others Christmas Eve may God help us because Jesus came a long way and gave up a lot of customs and traditions that he loved

to meet us and to redeem us to die on a cross for our sins and he invites us now to join him

to reach the world to examine our Traditions do they help us or do they hurt us in our mission to reach the lost world for Jesus

God we ask you to come Holy Spirit unify us not over what we like and don’t like but over what we have received from you

what we feel called to do to extend your Gospel Kingdom throughout this Earth Lord we pray for the day when

the visible reign of Jesus will be manifest in every every corner of this world

when you will become the king of kings and Lord of lords in the eyes of all God we look for that day we we ask you to give us patience as we wait for it but also Lord just show us how we can today be a part of your kingdom coming your will be done on Earth is in heaven


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