Friday, July 27, 2007

TRADITIONALISM: We've always done it that way here!


"The Williams Fire" caught us by surprise. Small fires in the San Gabriel Mountains are common for September in years of drought; but 24 hours after it started, what began as a 20-acre brush fire had quickly become a full-fledged problem … an out of control forest fire, consuming hundreds of acres at a gulp.

On the first day, I arrived home at dusk and went to an area to join neighbors watch the flames consume our beautiful mountains. We watched together for about an hour, waxing eloquently on our knowledge of fires, and trading lies about "the fire of '83." When the sun began to set over the Los Angeles skyline, we all commented on how the smoke had turned the sun burning red. I made a big deal about how beautiful it was.

As the sun began to slide behind the horizon, I began to have difficulty focusing on anything but the biggest flames. I turned to the lady on the right to mention this, only to see a dark grey face staring back at me. I then realized I was still wearing my sunglasses.

The old King James translators had a way with words; in 1 Corinthians 13:12 they have Paul informing the folks in Corinth that "now we see through a glass darkly." Their choice of words came alive for me when I realized I was still wearing my shades after dark.

There is another truth hidden in this experience: tradition, when used correctly, will prevent churches and denominations from moving critical boundaries, destroying key foundations, and distracting members from mission; tradition, when used incorrectly, obliterates boundaries, weakens structures, and obscures vision. Slowly, the Son-light slips below the collective horizon, what is supposed to be seen “dimly” is now seen not at all. So too with my cool shades.

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