Tradition of the Elders

The lections for this week in the seventh chapter of Mark remind me of the comment I received in my previous post. In the fifth verse of this Scripture reading, the Pharisees and scribes ask Jesus, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?"

The tradition of the elders, which is perhaps more commonly known as the Great Tradition, refers to the purity laws that the Pharisees (at least for the most part) kept. This group of small elites concerned themselves with ensuring that the holiness held within the Temple was also shared throughout Israel, as they believed Israel to be holy (though not as holy as the Temple, of course). It's hard not to imagine this as a legalistic version of religious faith (which could err toward fundamentalist tendancies) where this small group obsesses about what's "right."

I'm preaching on this text this coming Sunday and can't help but think of the horrifying ramifications in the concern for "what is right." What do we overlook? What do we fail to see? Most commentators envision Jesus as the one that turns this scenario on its head. It's not about boundaries, or what is right. Jesus concerns himself with crossing boundaries to reinterpret the inclusive Kingdom of God, where all are welcomed. There are exciting ways to take this which my own denomination has tried to embody. We claim that "no matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here." This is how we understand Jesus' message.

Heck. This is how I understand the world. This is the tradition that I have been handed from my elders. This is what I know. But, I really struggle with embodying this faith. As I tour our nation interviewing at so many exciting communities of faith, the question of age keeps coming up. I look young. I have a great presence with young people, and I am really upbeat. This apparently makes me seem younger. I was just told this yesterday actually. And for some reason, it really bothers me. Though it was not received within the context of an interview, I even got this comment from another blogger.

But, I don't think that we ever fully have it figured out. I think we are always reaching. Always learning. Always trying to understand ourselves and our world. We need the tradition of our elders to understand our past. After all, if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. But, what does it mean for us to cross boundaries in the separation of ages? When will I ever be old enough to stand firmly and say that I do have the answers? When will my life experience be enough? I understand that I'm young, and I feel young. But, when do we cross the boundary into wisdom? My elders have shared with me the same insecurity that I hold at my young age. So, I wonder if this is just a blurred boundary that we desparately want to mark on the timeline of life, but somehow, can't.

1 comment:

Mystical Seeker said...

Maturity and wisdom come to us at different rates. I am in my mid-40s, and feel like I have so much more wisdom to gain. Many people in their twenties have more wisdom than I do. Maybe it helps if you believe in yourself, regardless of your age, and people will see that confidence and believe in you too.