Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
Here in Grace Life we want to help folks steer a straight, honorable, and happy course through life. And that, before they have gone too far out to sea, and before they are tossed to and fro, or lost, runaground, or sunk.
So. You guessed it. We want to float your boat here. No leaks. Straight. To Christ. To godliness. To joy. To Grace Life. To heaven. Full speed ahead.
But the boat has to be built right, and have the right equipment. And of that we therefore speak.
Many-a-boat has, in fact, begun putt-putting along in life’s journey missing some things very important for the survival of its passengers and crew. Things like keels. Rudders. Sails. Too often boats and even ships are made, then launched, without these things. And theirs is not a bon voyage. All the courage of all the fearless crews cannot prevent their disaster.
The identity of the keel, the rudder, and the sails we have as believers might surprise. For they are these: traditions. Yes, indeed! Traditions. We could also say they are the ballast of our boats. For they prevent our boats from capsizing. And even the navigational system. For they keep us on course in life, and running before the wind. Our SNS. Spiritual Navigational System. Traditions!
Traditions are all that. They do all that. They are the things making our boats beautiful. And seaworthy. In calm seas and tempest. For smooth sailing in sight always of a certain Rock and of heaven. Precious, heaven-sent, heaven-crafted traditions!
Now does not that sound odd? Even writing it I thought: Now, couldn’t I say this some other way? Isn’t there some other word, other than that “T” word? What ever will people, especially young adult sorts, readers regularly in high gear and used to hockey at midnight and work and school and coffee with friends at Applebee’s before hockey again…want hearing…of those…traditions…again?
For here you are (and I know it!): young Grace Life believer, wanting a speed boat. Maybe thinking of sailing into uncharted waters. And the Reverend says your boat must be made of traditions. You were thinking Donzi. But now this. He says it has to be a traditional boat. Maybe the kind old folks drive on calm little lakes. With the three pontoons and the measly thirty-five horsepower Mercury. Putt putt. And pass the prunes.
Fact is, I can hardly blame you. You have been shot at. You probably hardly even know it. Harvard, San Francisco, democrats, rebumblingcans, the media, and all the world have given “traditional” anything, and especially traditional Christianity, a bad rep. That’s why you chafe at the thought of wearing a tie. And that’s why you go clubbing, or date, or dream of it, on the sly.
Long ago even churches stopped building their boats with and of traditions. Society seems to have persuaded many-a-church that traditions, rather than helps, are either so many unwanted barnacles crudding up the hull, or just so much irrelevant cargo moldering in the hold. Folks, even Christian ones nowadays, seem convinced that the old traditions impede their progress in today’s world, hinder their evangelistic and culture-war success in contemporary waters, and interfere with their ability to maneuver in the shallows, approach the shores, and meet the needs of modern men, women, and especially young people.
Captains everywhere (and who knows from whence they are receiving their orders!) abhor the traditional keels, have hoisted newfangled spinnakers, and ordered all hands to swab the decks and empty the holds of whatever thing traditionally Christian remains. Heard now, from many-a-bridge and poop deck: Traditional Reformed doctrine! Traditional Puritan morality! Traditional worship! Walk…the plank!
And a mutiny. For the Savior Captain, Jesus, would equip, safeguard, and guide His Queen fleet of the seas, the Church, the way He always, traditionally, has. Now that churches will have different boats, not according to the traditions of Jesus, they will have a different Captain. They have Jesus walk the plank. Or, as the Bible says: they “crucify the Son of God afresh.”
But we will not. And thus we want to hold the traditions. And float by them!
This is precisely what the apostle tells the Thessalonians, and what the Spirit tells us today, in II Thessalonians 2:15. “Therefore, brethren,” the text says, “Stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.”
There you have it. Traditions, to continue our boating metaphor, were to float and guide and speed along Thessalonian boats. Traditions were! And I dare say the apostle meant that the traditions were for young Thessalonian boats too!
So for us.
For traditions are just these:truths. To this the apostle refers. They are all the truths he preached and wrote about. They are the whole counsel of God. To the Thessalonians the apostle wrote especially of the end times. For all of us at all times the truth of the whole Bible is our “tradition,” and the various truths are the “traditions.”
They are traditions of the truth of God and His greatness, His eternal counsel, His wonderful creation, His heaven, and His hell. They are the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the truth as it is in Him. They are the truths of sin, of grace, of covenant, of holiness, of church, of worship, of godly homes, of responsible parenting, for young and for old, for covenantal marrying, for loving, for living, for dying, and of glory.
Truths! Truths one must love, says the apostle, in order to be saved (II Thessalonians 2:10)! Truths one must believe in order not to be damned (v.12), but instead to be sanctified and preserved to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (vv. 13, 14)! Truths one must hold in order to stand fast (v.15)!
Truths, these, called traditions.
Ever wonder why?
Well it is simply because truth is something “passed on” and then “received” and then “passed on” to the next generation. That is what the word “tradition” means. That is what the truth is: traditional.
I think, don’t you, it is all to remind us of God. Truth is. And the fact that it is traditional, that truths are “traditions.” Truth as this “traditional,” un-invented, passed on, good for grandpa, good for me, good for my sons and daughters, same old same old wonderful thing…is to teach us of God.
Of the wonder of God eternal and unchangeable, and that you just don’t invent God. Of the fact that God is with us in a great big family way—backwards to our ancestors, forwards to our offspring, and all around in every nation. Of the gospel of Jesus Christ, same, yesterday, and forever. Of the faith of our fathers living still. Of us still thrilled to sing of it, and to ask for it, and to live by it.
That is the gospel that traditions tell. One Word, always, for all time, for all people, young and old: the Word of the God who once for all has sent His Son and delivered Him up for our salvation. God with us in Jesus, our truth, the tradition of our traditions.
For the seven seas, sailor readers! For your seven seas!
We want to sail here. Big time. For a regular regatta!
But I want to warn you. There is a certain rock. And a whirlpool. These have splintered and sucked down many a boat and even entire fleets whose voyage in life started out in the good old traditional way.
Till then: Hoist the sails. Man the tiller. All young Grace Life hands on deck.