A Lesson From a Cotton Ball

Life offers many irritations.  Like mosquitos, leaky faucets, uncomfortable shoes, heartburn, rap music, reality TV, and cotton balls.

Cotton balls?

Yes, Cotton balls.

I was reminded of how infuriating the little buggers can be the other day when I opened a new bottle of aspirin.  I think I would have had an easier time getting past an armed guard than I had getting past that little wad of cotton.  After shaking the bottle, banging it on the counter, and trying to dig my pinky into an opening that was far too small for such a maneuver, I went off in search of the tweezers, which, of course, were nowhere to be found.  It occurred to me as my blood pressure skyrocketed that taking an aspirin shouldn’t be this hard.  Becoming an astronaut should be hard.  Performing brain surgery should be hard.  But not taking an aspirin.

Here’s the kicker.

Did you know there’s no reason why an aspirin bottle needs a cotton ball in it?  Aspirin companies have been putting them in there since the early 1900’s, but they readily admit that the aspirin would not be affected at all if they were left out.

Which begs the question: why on earth are they still putting cotton balls in aspirin bottles?

The answer: tradition.

When you’ve been doing something the same way for over 100 years, it just feels like you ought to keep doing it whether it makes any sense or not.

Sadly, many Christians are also bound up in the straight jacket called tradition.  Recently, a man walked into our church for the first time to worship on a Sunday morning.  When he saw that we didn’t have a communion table sitting in front of the pulpit, he took his wife by the arm and stomped out.  I’ve also known believers who felt like they couldn’t worship if they weren’t sitting in their regular pew or singing the hymns of their youth.

Some traditions are good, but others are downright silly.  Some may even border on idolatry.  It’s a sign of maturity when you can begin to tell the difference.

For further reflection read Matthew 15:1-9, Mark 7:1-13, Galatians 1:13-15.

This entry was posted in Personal Experience and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to A Lesson From a Cotton Ball

  1. Randy Whitehead says:

    Okay, you got my interest. I understand, Mark, about the cotton ball. But why not a communion table? I guess you use communion stations? Or what?

    • Mark says:

      Hi Randy. Yes, we have a fan-shaped auditorium with 2 communion tables, one on each side in the back of the auditorium. Our servers pick up the trays in the back and serve from there. We do it this way because we feel it’s less of a distraction for people if the moving around is behind them. In the case of the man who was angry about us not having a communion table in front of the pulpit, he didn’t care that we had 2 communion tables, he was offended because there wasn’t one in front of the pulpit. In his mind, pulpits and communion tables must never be separated.

  2. Klaus Roetsch says:

    Right on! Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Dan Plumley says:

    Excellent analogy! People in many churches have become so hung up on the cotton they forget about the aspirin. I don’t understand how they can study the Bible and still be so blind.

  4. Ruthann Ciochon says:

    I have been thinking a lot about tradition this week in reference to Church. My maternal grandfather was an elder in the Church of Christ in a small town in Michigan. It would be the church of the 1940’s and 1950’s. My brother is an elder in a small Church of Christ in Indiana. I am much more familiar with this church because my husband and I (Catholics) would attend on our visits to my brother’s. Until you mentioned it I never thought that the communion table is in the front of the church. The music is more traditional that at PCC. When I decided to join the Christian Church I think I was looking for a “traditional” church like my brother’s. I found PCC and decided to join here. Later I attended Kissimmee Christian Church and discovered that it was more “traditional”, but by that time, I was happy with my original decision to join PCC even though it is not as “traditional” as the churches in Michigan (memory) and Indiana. PCC has the small church atmosphere, friendliness, and a wonderful staff. The church in Indiana is trying to change things like the music and I am sure that they will be successful, but it will not occur over night.
    I also dislike the cotton in medicine bottles and child proof tops. Fortunately, my pharmacy has it on record to give me the right kind of tops. There is no child in this house to open the child proof tops for me.
    I truly enjoy your sermons and blogs.

  5. Randy Whitehead says:

    Thanks, I just wondered. You are so right about the irritations. People often see the symbol more than the message, especially in church!

  6. Marg says:

    Glad all is working well again. I do miss some of the more traditional church happenings.
    I miss having the Pastor bang on his pulpit to wake everyone up that had dozed off. I do miss the one cup for communion. I miss reading some of the items in the hymnals pertaining to the communion. Create in me a clean heart oh God, etc. I do say that each time I take the Lord’s supper.
    Yes you also know Mark I miss some of our old, old hymns there will never be replacements for them. When Terry includes one each week my heart skips a beat! Thank you I enjoy our church and thank God for the staff each day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *