James 2:24 (CEB)
24 So you see that a person is shown to be righteous through faithful actions and not through faith alone.
According to A Dictionary for United Methodists, “Tradition is experience and the witness of development and growth of the faith through the past centuries and in many nations and cultures.” (Waltz, 1991)
Ecumenical (meaning a mix of Christian denominations) differences are interesting to review, but shouldn’t keep us from the essential unity that we all share in our Christian traditions. In classical Lutheran and Reformed theologies, good works are seen to be evidence of faith, but the good works themselves do not determine salvation.
We, as Methodists, believe “good works are the necessary fruits of faith and follow regeneration, but they do not have the virtue to remove our sins or to avert divine judgment. We believe good works, pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, spring from a true and living faith, for through and by them faith is made evident.” Article X, “Good Works”, The Confession of Faith (United Methodist Church)
When we study and honor the tradition of the faith that we are justified by, (Sola Fide – justification by faith alone), we can look at scriptures and pay attention to Jesus’ word on traditions in relation to the reliable traditions handed down through our Methodist Church. In Mark 7:8 Jesus scolds the Pharisees for disregarding and neglecting the commandments of God and clinging to the traditions.
Many of our Methodist traditions are listed in The United Methodist Hymnal. These include traditional affirmations of faith, how we perform our sacraments, and hymns that confirm the Spirit of the Word of God given to us in the scriptures. One example is the hymn “Let Us Break Bread Together”. We celebrate at the table the Lord has provided us while adapting to different methods, such as using grape juice and gluten-free wafers, and we don’t typically practice kneeling or facing the rising sun (per the hymn.)
By Brian Harriet
For Pondering & Prayer
Think about what family or church traditions you kept last Christmas. How do they help you continue to grow and benefit a strengthened faith in you?
Prayer: Lord, we know that keeping to traditions helps to strengthen our faith. Help us to stay in Your Word, follow well-developed traditions and use them to learn, see and correct our mistakes, becoming more like your precious Son, Jesus the Christ. Amen.