The challenge of “how we do church” came up recently in conversation with friends. We concluded that every stream of the church has its own set of distinctions. The fellowship I am part of is no different. We grew out of a particular movement in the story of the church. This has shaped us into the people that we are today. I value many aspects of tradition but also recognise that “tradition is a river to follow, not a pool to sit by.” That thought is worth further consideration…
Imagine life by the pool for a moment. It is, in many ways, a static activity. Around the pool we tend to reminisce and focus on “the good old days.” We lament that things are not what they once were. This has the potential to make us critical and judgmental. We become all too easily introverted. Life around the pool leads to a narrow, restrictive and unhealthy view of the church and its place in the world.
It is this aspect of tradition that Jesus was most against. He warned against elevating tradition above the Word of God.
The river, by contrast, can be wild and dangerous on occasions. The white water can lead to a sense of being out of control, exciting and exhilarating as it is! At other times we meander down the shallow and slow sections of its course. In these moments we are more able to take in the wider surroundings and have opportunity to rest and reflect.
Movement…rest…challenge…reflection…the experience of life on the river. This aspect of tradition is a true treasure to the people of God. The river remains forever connected to its source. In the broadest sense we look to God as the fount of life and faith. In a narrower sense we reflect that we are who we are because of our heritage.
At the end of the day it is our perspective on the past and present which is of crucial importance. We can treat our Christian heritage as something binding or something liberating; that which constricts our thinking or expands our horizons.
We can dwell in the past and wish to return there or we can take inspiration from those who have gone before and allow their example to instil greater faithfulness in the present.