The Fifth Sunday after Trinity, 2017
For The Epistle – 1 Peter 3:8-15a
The Gospel – Luke 5:1-11
Article 34 – Of the Traditions of the Church
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Article 34 is on the docket today. Of the Traditions of the Church.
In this Article we have basically two main points being made.
1. That the traditions and ceremonies of the Church throughout history were not to be everywhere alike, but that particular or national Churches may ordain, change or abolish ceremonies which had their source in human authority….all in order that they may be most edifying to the people.
2. That private individual people, who take it upon themselves out of their own private judgment are not allowed or justified in making such changes of the traditions or ceremonies of the Church especially if the those traditions or ceremonies do not in any way run contrary to the Bible.
We can find many instances if we search the history of the Church where different churches in different geographical locations were different from one another in ceremony.
We in fact find this in Anglican Churches today….not that this is so because anyone of them is trying their hardest to follow the direction of this Article.
If you travel around and find other 1928 BCP parishes, you will find a great range of differences.
Different ways in which the Liturgy is annunciated by the priest.
Different ways in which people cross themselves or genuflect….or don't cross themselves or genuflect.
Different vestment colors worn for the Eucharist or Funerals or Weddings.
Different ways in which the Altar is decorated and furnished.
The Archbishop has talked a few times on how very different the ceremonies and/or traditions of various ACC parishes across the globe are and how they differ from one another.
Yet they are all welcome in the ACC because they still retain the essentials of Anglicanism.
But at the same time, this is not to necessarily celebrate and long for so much diversity that we lost our commonality.
It is important to remember that the Book of Common Prayer is called “Common” for a reason.
It is common in that every 1928 BCP you pick up will always (if it an authentic 1928 book) it will always be identical.
It may vary from hard cover to soft.
It may vary from big letter to small.
It may vary from pew size, pocket size or oversize….
But you will always be able to turn to page 67, for example, and find the beginning of the Holy Communion Service.
No one is allowed to alter the Prayer Book in any way so as to violate its “commonness.”
This is one of the biggest problems with the Episcopal Church’s change to the 1979 BCP. The “Common” aspect was done away with.
New rites were invented.
Options to use different rites were allowed.
So you will now enter one of those Churches and never be sure what you are going to hear or what will be used in the service to guide and direct your worship.
Those things that are indifferent to a service, however, are just that…indifferent.
How many candles on an altar…or the different ways in which people cross themselves. Etc.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:26ff this…he is writing to a Church that is in disarray. He is concerned about some of these very things.
He says to then, “What then brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”
Then down at verse 40, still on this topic, he says, “But all things should be done decently and in order.”
So Paul wants the Church to of course have a variety of people and a variety of gifts that they can exercise. But, that these gifts be done by the one possessing them solely with an eye to edifying everyone else.
He wants a spirit of humility to govern each of them.
So, again, It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly alike.
Nor is it the right of the individual to make or force changes when no violation of Scripture is to be found in what is currently being done.
One commentary says it this way.
“That private person should not wantonly break or neglect the traditions of the Church to which they belong, may be said to result from the very nature of a Christian society, and indeed of society altogether.
The traditions of the Church to which we all belong are in place so as to keep peace, tranquility, order….keeping a Christian society as consistent and coherent as possible…since peace and order are what we are commanded to live by.
The traditions and even the ceremonies of the Church are very ancient in many cases and have stood the test of time and have been handed down to us and at times at great cost and have proven themselves to be edifying to us…
…so we must always take great care when making changes or alterations to be sure that things are always done decently and in order and that they remain edifying to those who live and pray and worship together.
Paul’s one line of advice is probably the best summary. All things should be done decently and in order.
There is good scriptural authority in favor of obedience to both civil and Church authority.
Regarding civil authority.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities, resists what God has appointed.
And for the Church, Jesus tells the people and His Disciples, “The Scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.”
Paul tells the people of the Church in Rome about Stephanas and how his household were the first converts in Achaia and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints and that the brothers are to be subject to them and every fellow worker and laborer in the work of the Church.
Or to the Thessalonians, “We ask you brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”
Here is why this Article was chosen for today.
First our Collect was a prayer to God in this manner, “GRANT, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We asked God that by His governing grace, the world would be so peaceably ordered, so that we, the Church may joyfully serve God in quietness….with few if any distractions.
This is why the emphasis on this article is made today regarding the Order of the Church.
If there is order in the Church and things are being done that way…this is one of the ways in which the Church can actually influence the world.
We are in this world, but are not to be conformed to it. We are to live as pilgrims here because that is what we are.
And yet it is a good thing for Christians to show internal unity and order so that we are a good witness to the outside world where there is chaos and disorder.
We will never fix this world, but we can certainly, by our good witness, draw others to Christ by our good examples.
Peter in the Epistle today even commands this of us.
1 Peter 3:8-9
 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (ESV)
There is the command for a unified church body.
In this Epistle section read today in our hearing, “…Peter gives five instructions for the church’s health and well-being, and they apply not only to the first-century church but also to churches of every place and time.”
His first is sort of the umbrella concept for the other 4.
Finally brothers, have unity of mind. If we have unity of mind as commanded, then sympathy for one another and brotherly love for one another and a tender heart toward others will come.
Paul supplements this here with this from his letter to the Ephesian Church, “Ephesians 4:1-6
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Then here are the commonalities the Church must abide by and must adhere to and must believe in for that unity of the Spirit….
 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (ESV)
There are the essentials (or at least a partial but important list) that we are to hold to for unity.
There is not talk there by Paul or Peter about using Violet vs. Black for a funeral, or whether the altar has 2 candles or 6 or 8.
There is no direction for the size or water capacity rules for the baptismal font.
There is a call to the essential unity of the Church through the essentials of the Faith.
Though the Church has, from its birth existed in a variety of ways ceremonially and traditionally, it does and must have other certain things in common for its general welfare.
One God and Father of us all.
Those are the non-negotiable things of the Christian Faith that all true Churches throughout the ages have held to.
And there are other things such as ceremonies and traditions that have come and gone.
The focus of all of this is to remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ and the Word of God above all other things.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.