So the, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us….
2 Thessalonians 2:15
Traditions can be things that are handed down to us by previous generations.
Most everyone has traditions they cherish. Things they do at Christmas-time. Things they eat at Thanksgiving. Things they do for birthdays, while on vacation, at the beginning or end of the school year, and on and on.
Then there are traditions that exist in congregations. Things that they have always done.
There was one pastor who was a guest preacher filling in at a certain congregation. It was during the summer months and their regular pastor was on vacation.
He arrived somewhat early to the little church. It was a congregation that was over 100 years old, with a cemetery right next to it and a verdant corn field across the street.
The people gathered for the service, shuffling in amid the tried-and-true preservice organ music. As they found their regular pew, they said good morning to friends and family, shook hands with each other, all the while stealing glances to the front to see if they could catch a preview glimpse of their guest preacher.
Soon enough, he walked out and stood in front of the congregation and began the worship service.
He bowed before the altar and then turned to welcome them to worship. As he turned, he was surprised to find nearly the entire gathered group sitting on one side of the sanctuary.
But they didn’t seem at all bothered by this, so he didn’t say anything.
As he stood looking at the faces of these steadfast Christians, he led them in the confession of sins, read to them Holy Scripture, and then had them sit down to sing the hymn before the sermon. He turned to walk to his chair behind the pulpit to get ready to sing with them.
As the organist introduced the hymn, the preacher was startled by a commotion. He turned back to the congregation and what a sight to behold!
The entire congregation was moving to the other side of the sanctuary!
Again, no one seemed surprised or startled except him, so he didn’t say anything.
He preached his sermon, albeit a bit distracted as part of his mind was trying to figure out this odd behavior.
The rest of the service continued with no further interruptions or mass movements by the people.
After the service, the guest preacher was sitting in the fellowship hall chatting with some of the people over coffee and a Danish.
As the people finished their fellowship and started to head home, an elderly gentlemen walked over to the preacher and sat down.
“Good morning, Reverend. Thank you for preaching God’s Word to us this day!” he said.
“You are quite welcome. It was a … ah…. pleasure and a … um … unique experience!” the preacher replied.
“I bet you are talking about the mass movement right before the sermon hymn.”
The guest preacher let out a sigh and said, “Well, now that you mention it, that was rather odd. Why do they do that?”
“It’s a funny thing. Most of the people actually don’t really know why they do it. It’s just that they have always done that, for over 70 years. Two or three generations have grown up in this church doing it but don’t really know why,” the elderly gentlemen explained.
The guest preacher noticed a twinkle in his eye and said, “But I’m guessing you do know the reason why!”
“You are correct, sir!”
“You see, 70 years ago, this was a vibrant and exciting congregation filled with mostly farmers and their families. As you probably suspect, we have sunny and warm summers – but they were awfully short. Our winters were long, drawn out affairs that were snowy and cold.
During the winter, this old clapboard church used to get mighty cold. One year, a particularly wealthy business man joined our congregation and, not being from around here originally, didn’t like the cold winters at all.
So he donated a large and brand new wood burning stove to heat the sanctuary in the winter time. The trustees of the congregation installed it the north side of the sanctuary as that was the coldest part of building.
Everyone was pleased with this new donation and during that cold and snowy winter, this sanctuary was warm and toasty. In fact, too warm and toasty. At the beginning of the service, everyone would sit near the stove to keep warm. But by the time of the sermon, they were plenty warm and they would get up and move to the other side of the sanctuary to be comfortable in the cooler air.
That stove was so well built, it lasted us till the late ‘60’s when another wealthy businessman donated a new, central heating and air conditioning unit and the stove was removed.
But the tradition of sitting on one side of the sanctuary at the beginning of the service and moving to the other side in the middle of the service was so ingrained in the hearts and lives of the people that they kept doing it out of habit.
Today, they still do it, although there are only a few of us left who know why we used to do it in the first place!”
This kind of tradition is not one the “traditions” that St. Paul is talking about in 2 Thessalonians 2:15. He is not talking about things that we do “because we’ve always done it that way.”
He is talking about things that he and his companions (Luke, Timothy, Silas) had taught them when they were in Thessalonica. Things like the Gospel of Jesus Christ, how the Old Testament prophesied about the coming of Christ, and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
You and I are tempted to stand firm in our traditions because we’ve always done them. They are comfortable. They feel right. They are a part of who we are.
But St. Paul reminds us that we need to stand firm in the traditions that God has passed on down to us through our fathers and forefathers – the Good News of Jesus Christ and him crucified!
Other traditions are fine, but the traditions of the Gospel will stand forever and will cause us to stand firm as well as we pass them on to another generation!
©2017 True Men Ministries