Summary: #5 of 7 on Worship. This sermon looks at our worship traditions and how to avoid traditions becoming traditionalism.
In Spirit and In Truth
A Series on Worship
#5: Traditions of Men
What if a first-century Christian happened to come into our assembly? What would seem strange to him?
• He would be surprised to see that the church owns a building. They didn’t have buildings in the first century.
• He would never have seen a pulpit or a communion table. These things seem so normal to us. We see this furniture and we say, "Oh, it’s a church building."
• He would marvel at our communion trays. He would look for the loaf of bread (not the matzohs or the wafers). He would think that the wine tasted a bit watered down.
• Our Bibles would seem strange, since he would never have seen God’s scriptures in a single volume. They had scrolls for individual books, but they didn’t have them all together.
• And songbooks! He would never have seen music written out before. Nor would he have heard anything that sounded like our songs. Their songs sounded more like chants. They sure didn’t have four-part harmony.
Is it possible that a few things have changed since the first century? Sometimes when we think of Paul meeting with the church in Troas, we imagine them all sitting in pews with songbooks and Bibles. It didn’t happen. I want to talk some about tradition. Whether we like it or not, we are a people full of traditions. A tradition is just an accepted way of doing things. It is neither good nor bad in itself. It’s just a way of doing things.
Some special worship traditions
• The “five acts of worship” -- we talked about these last week
• The invitation song -- that’s a tradition. It’s not in the Bible.
• The “magic” closing prayer -- a closing prayer can transform a worship assembly into a meeting of the church. You can do something after this prayer that you can’t do before. Can you show me any biblical basis for that? It’s a tradition.
• Congregational singing only -- you can have a quartet after the magic closing prayer, but if it’s before... sorry. It doesn’t matter that from what we can tell from the Bible and from history is that they didn’t always all sing at the same time, our tradition tells us that we have to do it.
• Removing hat for prayers -- we remove our hats when we pray to God, but we can sing the same words to God with our hats on.
• Standing up for prayers -- it’s a tradition.
• Ending prayers with “In Jesus name, amen.” -- Jesus did say to pray in His name, but did He say to end our prayers with this formula?
• Preacher raising hand and kneeling to pray -- You might want to argue that this last one isn’t our tradition… but it was 60 to 70 years ago. Church of Christ preachers, at some point in their sermon, would kneel and raise their hands to pray. Many still raise their hands when baptizing someone. It used to happen every time.
We have our traditions, don’t we?
Let’s talk about what’s good about traditions. We’re used to saying that we reject all traditions and that all traditions are bad, but that’s not true.
• They help us know what to do. If we didn’t have traditions, every Sunday when we came together, we would have to decide how to do our worship service. As someone said, that would eventually become a tradition in itself. We have the tradition of using a song leader. It’s a good tradition. It helps us to organize our worship.