While I would admit that rituals within the church and things done repetitively in everyday life can lose their significance and meaning over time, I dare you to think about everything you do on a regular basis in which you still find meaning and purpose.
· Eating and sleeping
· Taking a shower, doing your hair; ladies, using a little makeup
· Connecting with family and friends by being with them and talking to them
· The Sunday football routine and Monday morning analysis of what happened the day before
· Setting up the Shaeffer’s Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving
· Updating your Facebook status at least daily
The Bible as well holds certain traditions in high regard. Take a look at these two passages:
Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. (1 Corinthians 11:2 ESV)
So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our
letter. (2Thessalonians 2:15 ESV)
So what determines the difference between good traditions and bad ones, especially when it comes to what we do within the Church? The answer, I believe, is in who has instituted the tradition. If it’s God, it’s a good thing and will benefit us and honor Him—practices like meeting together on Sundays for worship and instruction, the regular observance of the Lord’s Supper, etc. fall into this category. If the tradition has been put there by man, we need to really think about it as to whether or not it is beneficial and we definitely are not to hold onto it as if our faith will be wrecked if we stop doing whatever “it” is. Matthew 15 is a perfect example of the traditions of men gone bad and actually overriding the Word of God. Here we read: Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say,‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:1-9 ESV)
I’m thinking that the American tradition of Thanksgiving is a very good thing. I say this because our typical response is anything but a heart of gratitude and appreciation. Our default setting drives us to respond the way 9 out of 10 lepers responded in Luke 17. All 10 were healed as they went to show themselves to the priests as required by the law, but only one turned back to thank and praise Jesus for what happened. Why?
Probably for the 9, as with most people, good things in life are really hard to come by because of all the evil we face. These lepers spent countless years isolated from their family, friends and society at large. They were shunned and forced to live on the outskirts of town by themselves to preserve the health of the rest of the population. There was no way to earn an income, no source of hope, nothing. Now that they were healed, they couldn't “see” anything else. They had a new life to start. The miraculous healing was so dazzling that it became bigger than life and definitely larger than the One who made it happen.
Before we all become too self-righteous and condemn the lepers that did not say “thank you,” we should remember we aren’t any different than they are. We lack gratitude and appreciation for what we are given by God. We don’t have that sense of “Wow, I am deeply touched by what God has given me. He is so generous and good to me. Thank you Lord because I definitely don’t deserve any of this.” Instead, our typical attitude is: “That’s it? Lord, that’s all I get?” or how about, “You’re late God!” or maybe it’s just, “Mine, mine, mine! There’s no way am I sharing any of this stuff with anyone.” These responses are inappropriate for the child of God.
So, what is the appropriate response to God’s goodness? Scripture tells us:
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble…(Psalm 107:1-2 ESV)
…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV)
It is fitting for the saints to “say so.” To give thanks to God for His goodness and steadfast love that endures forever. And not only that, but we are also to tell the world about this goodness and redemption, and to respond to others with the same attitude of thankfulness and appreciation.
So how does a one day reminder to give thanks fit in? It fits in because we need constant reminders for thanksgiving to be a regular part of our life … both publicly and privately. And our Thanksgiving holiday serves, at least in a small way, to do that. Even if you don’t “feel like it” this morning, God calls you to thank Him for all He has done. What can you thank Him for this morning? If you’re facing the biggest mountain ever, you can still echo the words of the psalmist:
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11 ESV)