December 5 Romans 15:4-13 Many of us understand or at least many of us experience strong traditions.

My name is the reflection of a relatively strong and not uncommon tradition. My father is Lorne David. My grandfather was David D. My great-grandfather was David J. And scattered further back in the looser history of my family are other Davids. I felt this tradition. At Christmas time we begin to enter into traditions again in expressions and acts of when, how and with whom we gather. Over time churches quickly form traditions of how life is expressed through various forms of worship and lifestyles. The traditions are concrete practices of how we communicate, how we dress ourselves, how we behave. Most of these things are not spelled clearly out but they are felt when we gather. And so at home with our families, with our friends and neighbours and here at church many of us daily and annually practice traditions, gatherings and expressions that seem to reflect something of the core or identity of who we are. Many of us inherit and inhabit strong traditions. As I have continued to sit with Paul and his letter to the Romans this Advent a clarifying perspective or actually paradox on tradition is emerging. The season of Advent and Christmas and also of Lent and Easter often mark the times of strongest and of most concrete traditions as expressed in the Church. Each church draws on its own history as well as the broader denominational histories of how our ancestors understood and practiced these seasons. These traditions provide comfort, security and joy for many people as we anticipate Advent and Christmas knowing what the season will bring.


at a certain point I remember actually feeling some pressure. the irony or paradox that I am finding in the book of Romans is leading me to think that Advent and Christmas is actually a time in which the church and Christians should be radically calling their traditions into question. Let me begin to unpack this thinking by starting with my own tradition that I alluded to. What about the women who did not carry the Driedger name? What of all the other men and women in my family whose names are lost or fading? What is so important about this name? What is this name really connecting to or perpetuating? It dawned on me on how unjustly and almost violently this tradition was working on me. From an early age I understood that I was the last of the David Driedgers that came from my great-grandfather’s line and more than that I was also the last male Driedger from my grandfather’s line. And all this was probably before I was a teenager. subtle pressures. No one directly forced this burden on me but it came and I felt it nonetheless. And I can’t clearly answer it. As Chantal and I grew closer to having our own child I began to revisit this tradition in a new and more pressing way. In any event.However. At one point I assumed I would include David at least as a middle name. How did I know this at a young age? Good question. Questions arose. and so forth. Sand was beginning to grind in the cogs that kept it going. some burden of carrying on ‘the family name’. little comments. But then things began to get caught up in the machinery of this tradition. How do traditions begin and how are they perpetuated? Small acts. 2 .

But this child came and instituted a break from the practiced tradition so that a path could be cleared for God’s coming. To the extent that Judaism would remain a localized. the question is not whether we accept or reject tradition as such but rather in how we are able to interpret and engage and carry our traditions. worked to exclude or at least diminish the value of others around me and also before me. Now before I get any further I should be clear that I don’t think we can live without tradition. As I worked through my own experience I was reminded of another Advent story.This tradition made me feel as though I had a privileged position simply by what I was named at birth. ethnic and politically defined expression it would be difficult to fulfill God’s vision for the world. 3 . seemingly upset. If there is one thing we as Gentiles should be keenly aware of during Advent it is that something pretty decisive broke within the practiced tradition of Judaism at that time so that the purposes of God’s Kingdom could be enlarged to further the work of peace and reconciliation in the world. as I understand it. This privileged position. John’s father Zechariah was rendered mute when he questioned the angel Gabriel how he and his wife Elizabeth could bear a child in their old age and that they should name him John. I came to see that this tradition was not constructive. Tradition. John the Baptist. in turn. When the child was born and they named him John the people around were initially critical. that of the forerunner of Jesus. Remember how he was named. So. saying that they had no relatives with that name. Zechariah and Elizabeth were not following tradition. simply names and describes patterns that emerge from any social settings. in fact I believe it became harmful.

. nurture and grow. The Gentiles have been grafted unnaturally into the line of God’s people. coming form something different and beyond our experience. In chapter 14 leading up to our reading Paul tries to diffuse the tension created over disputable matters.And so at Advent we must remember again our previous status as outsiders and foreigners. so what? each of you does so to the glory of God. . . We bear no family name that means anything for the work of God. for a time. The Gentiles are not the natural branches. Perhaps we will see that light continues to glow from the places of our old traditions. Paul tries to help the church navigate seemingly conflicting traditions. so what? each of you 4 . Paul spends significant time trying to teach the church in Rome about their adoption into the Kingdom of God. So you love to sing technical pieces of music while your neighbour seems to let go with great enthusiasm . So what does this call us to? Where does this lead us? We must. We who believe in the necessity of defending and promoting the meaning of Christmas are first and foremost the gracious recipients of this event who had no claim to it. We must sit again in the darkness outside of privilege and status so that we can see clearly where the light comes from. . dim down and put out the lights of our own traditions. . But just as certainly we will need to see over our shoulder the glow other places. We must learn to embody the ones cast under shadows and darkness as the insiders gather around the light of their tradition. So you celebrate each day the same and your neighbour sets apart one day as a sacred . but we were of a different kind. . So you like to wear a suit when you come to church and your neighbour values coming casually . We are the ones with no family lines and histories of faith. Surely there are many godly expressions and practices that we should maintain. so what? each of you does so to the glory of God.

They become a stablizing presence but this sort of stability comes at the cost of those who do not and sometimes cannot conform to particular traditions. The people of God were always called to share their gifts. Whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Both Jesus and Paul are relentless in this perspective. with the world. And so in the midst of disputes over traditions that are distracting from the work of God’s Kingdom Paul says wisely. I think this comes close to the fundamental point of how our faith informs and shapes our tradition.does so to the glory of God. even weak in the eyes of the world. And so we enter into the ongoing exchange of opening our strengths for the sake of the weak. The point is that traditions are always tempted to become centres of power for those who adhere to them. We open and share our strengths. He moves away from the divisive issues and traditions that the church is facing and says. To the extent that we have been granted means and abilities in our lives and traditions they are called and indebted to lift up and bear with the weaknesses of those without the same abilities. this was their tradition. The people of Israel since the time of Abraham were always meant to be a blessing to all people. And finally in this weaknesses we can encounter the strength and power of God. So as we encounter our reading this morning Paul shifts gears. This is the pivotal move in our faith. Paul is drawing on this sort of thinking to explain why the Gentiles have become full participants in God’s Kingdom and then how Gentiles can keep from losing sight of that reality. this tradition. 5 . In so doing we become vulnerable. We who are able are indebted to bear the weaknesses of those who are unable.

embraced and welcomed you and then he adds in order to bring praise to God. on behalf of God’s truth to establish the promises made to the patriarchs. of this tradition. I tell you that Christ became a servant of the Jewish people. 6 .The Kingdom of God is the site which is ever opening itself to the weaknesses being born around and within us so that strength of God might emerge. Then Paul goes on. A tradition that does not try to secure and preserve itself but exists for offering itself and in doing so doing also becomes open for receiving. May God grant you new eyes to see how your traditions and our church traditions can embrace and bear with the world around us. just as Christ accepted. And so as Paul moves along verse seven rings out to accept. This is no magical act or guarantee of his being free from harmful traditions. May these traditions be weak enough to allow our Messiah to inhabit and transform them to fulfill the promise of blessing to the world. Amen. Christ embodied a weak tradition to crack open a strong on in order to establish what God has been promising all along through writings of the Old Testament which is the redemption of the world and the unified worship of God. Praise God that you have been grafted into this tradition. We are called to a weak tradition. to welcome one another. So as many of you know my son does not have David as any of his names. to embrace. Advent does not call us to eliminate traditions but to consider a weak tradition that loses interest in its own defence but opens itself to encounter the strong and weak of this world. We exist in a perpetual temptation to secure and perpetuate traditions to the exclusion of others.

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