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Passing on the Fire

29 November 2022

By Michael Botts of Hannover, Germany

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together. To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. For there the thrones for judgment were set up, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls and security within your towers.” For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

Psalm 122

When I moved from the United States to Germany in 1974, my “American traditions” were suddenly confronted with “German traditions.” The traditions in a culture that had been established over a thousand years ago were much different than the culture of the Midwest USA I was born into.

Sometimes the transition to new traditions was easy, and sometimes not. Food was easy; I learned to love German bread, German sausage, and German pastries. The German Adventskalender (“Advent calendar” with 24 doors with goodies behind them) blended well with hanging up stockings on Christmas Eve.

Other cultural formalities were more difficult for me. I wasn’t used to aloof waiters in restaurants, or to over-the-top bureaucracy. Even some of the traditions in the German Church were different from those I knew in the States.

The composer Gustav Mahler is attributed with saying, “Tradition is passing on the fire, not worshipping the ashes.” How fitting for the Community of Christ! How fitting for a church that believes that we should be a prophetic people who discerns the divine will for our own time and in the places where we serve. A church where the spirit of the Restoration is not locked in one moment of time but is a call to every generation to witness to essential truths in its own language and form (Doctrine and Covenants 162:2c, e).

What a wonderful calling to be someone who passes on the fire! Sometimes it is easy to discern which traditions in the church pass on the fire, and which do not. I like to think Mahler would say, “‘That’s the way we have always done it’ should only be valid if it means this is how we continue to pass on the fire.”

Jesus gave us many examples of breaking with the traditions that did not allow him to serve. Healing a blind man on a Sabbath day, protecting an adulterer from being stoned, speaking to a Samaritan woman at a well, and blessing children were all breaks with the traditions of that day.

Maybe it is time to change something.

Prayer Phrase

God who is with us and ahead of us, help us feel the gentle nudge of your Spirit as we move toward the future. Guide us along the way as we seek justice and peace for your creation.

Spiritual Practice

Praying for Leadership of the Church

An important spiritual practice for disciples is praying for members of the body of Christ, especially those who carry leadership responsibilities. Ask God to guide your awareness of people who lead the community of faith in congregations, mission centers, and the World Church. Pray for God’s outpouring of grace on each servant leader who comes to mind.

Today’s Prayer for Peace

Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.

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