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by Alan Smith


    The story is an old one. Its veracity is not easily checked, but its point is still powerful:

It is said that, years ago in Russia, a czar came upon a lonely sentry standing at attention in a secluded corner of the palace garden. “What are you guarding?” asked the czar. “I don’t know. The captain ordered me to this post,” the sentry replied.

The czar called the captain. His answer: “Written regulations specify a guard was to be assigned to that area.” The czar ordered a search to find out why. The archives finally yielded the reason. Years before, Catherine the Great had planted a rose bush in that corner. She ordered a sentry to protect it for that evening.

One hundred years later, sentries were still guarding the now barren spot.

Much of what we do is done merely because it’s what we’ve always done.
    Tradition. Much of what we do is done merely because it’s what we’ve always done. It’s what our parents and our grandparents did. It’s what we’ve always done. And there’s nothing wrong with tradition itself. You probably have some traditions in your family involving the Thanksgiving meal, the opening of presents on Christmas, and many areas of daily life.

    Even in our congregations we all have traditions, things that we have done the same way for decades. However, there are two possible problems with traditions.

    First of all, it is possible to do something a certain way for so long that we put our tradition on a level with God’s law (a problem the Pharisees had).

    And the second, a danger inherent in tradition itself, is that like the sentry, we may do things without thinking about WHY we do them. There may have been good reason at one time, but if we are unaware of the reason, we are left with a ritual of “going through the motions” devoid of any significant meaning.

    Jesus chided his contemporaries:

”‘For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men — the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.’ [Jesus] said to them, ‘All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.’” (Mark 7:8-9)
      © 2002, Alan Smith. Used by permission. This devotional was reprinted from Thought for the Day.

      Title: ""
      Author: Alan Smith
      Publication Date: June 12, 2002


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