Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John, Lutheran Church Amherst, NY
I’m a rule breaker. I like to break rules. This is especially true when it comes to my ministry.
See, I’m a part of a tradition (Lutheran) that loves things like tradition. We have plenty of rules (a whole book of confessions [beliefs], constitutions and by-laws, etc.). Additionally, we have lots of unwritten rules (thou shalt sit in the back of church, worship shall not exceed 60 minutes, annual meetings shall be accompanied by a potluck supper, etc.). Most of my days are filled with “supposed to’s” and most of the time I like to break them. On occasion it gets me in trouble.
“You can’t do that!” is a refrain I’ve gotten used to hearing. As I’ve grown in pastoral confidence I have developed an eloquent response… “Why not?”
Most church-folk can fill in the rest of the conversation. “We’ve never done that before.” “That’s not how we do things around here.” “That isn’t a part of our tradition.” “But we’ve always done it this way.”
This isn’t a new conversation in the church world. In fact, it’s the opposite. This is the original dilemma facing the church: rule breaking.
See, Jesus and his disciples were always breaking rules. He healed when he wasn’t “supposed to.” They went where they weren’t “supposed to.” They ate with people they weren’t “supposed to.” They ate in ways they weren’t “supposed to.” Jesus touched people he wasn’t “supposed to.” He conversed with those he wasn’t “supposed to.” Again and again in scripture the religious leaders look at Jesus and his followers and shout, “You’re not supposed to do that.”
Jesus and his disciples’ days were filled with “supposed to’s” and they continually broke the rules. During one of the many instances in which Jesus ran into trouble for rule breaking he replied to his critics, “You hypocrites. ‘[You] honor me with your lips, but your hearts are far from me; in vain do you worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
Rules are not inherently bad; it’s quite the opposite. Rules are good and necessary. However, sometimes they’re meant to be broken; especially when they supersede the commandment of God. In the church, we who follow Jesus are called to be somewhat rebellious as we strive to obey not human tradition, but to obey the commandment of our God (that we LOVE one another). So…
Reach out to someone you’re not “supposed to.”
Break bread with someone you’re not “supposed to.”
Love your enemy. Give to a stranger.
Forgive again. Hope in the face of despair.
Speak out. Stand up. Make a scene.
Break a few rules.
In the Way,
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.