Thud. Thud. Thud.
The rhythmic pounding of the wooden mallets making contact with the dough resonated throughout the neighborhood. It was Christmas day and our family was celebrating mochitsuki, the Japanese tradition of mochi pounding with our friends and their extended family. Once cooked, the steaming hot, glutinous sweet mochi rice must be pounded so that no grains are present. Once the process is completed, the mochi is shaped into small cakes to be eaten. If one has never experienced this, here is a famous video showcasing two very energetic mochi pounders.
Most certainly, our mochi pounding was not as dynamic or exciting, but it was equally effective! It is a tradition spanning over a thousand years of Japanese history and celebrates the new year. As a Japanese-American, I was happy to participate as I imagined my own ancestors in Japan celebrating in the same manner. Traditions bind us. They reconnect us with our cultural roots and generations of family members. Of course, not everyone who participated in the mochitsuki experienced the same deep emotions that I did. Many were there simply for the camaraderie and the food. While this is important and noble, it overlooks the deep heritage of this tradition.
Do the traditions of man differ from the traditions of God?
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NASB)
Before He was resurrected from the dead and returned to Heaven to be with God, the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ earnestly desired to share a last Passover meal with His disciples. He wanted them to remember Him when He was gone. Thousands of years later, the Church still partakes in Communion, to proclaim the Lord’s death until He returns to earth. Like the mochitsuki, not all who participate recognize their solemn responsibility to honor and uphold the significance of the tradition.
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.
1 Corinthians 11:27-30 (NASB)
In the early Church, there were some who gorged themselves on the bread and got drunk on the wine, before the actual communion. They were partaking in the communion in an unworthy manner, not recognizing or understanding the significance. As a result, they brought God’s judgment upon themselves, resulting in weakness, sickness, and even death.
The traditions of man look back to our heritage and bind us together with little consequence if we no longer understand the origins. When God establishes a tradition, He does so to bring all participants closer to Him. We must understand and honor the origins of His traditions to partake of it in a worthy manner, lest we face His judgment.
Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.