By Delton (pic from freefoto.com)- Tradition. When I hear that word I often think of the play Fiddler on the Roof. I don't remember the whole story, but as I recall it involved a father opposing his daughter's desire to marry a particular boy because it would go against their "tradition." Then he sang a song about it.
Around the holidays we hear alot about and many practice traditions - christmas trees, gift exchanges, family gatherings. These traditions bring a sense of warmth and stability to a high paced, fast changing world. At the same time, traditions can become a burden or stress if they lose meaning and drain finances or relationships. They can also keep us from something fresh and new if we are unwilling to look beyond.
My denominational heritage is Mennonite, but from my grandparents on down, we have been willing to embrace new ways of worship and new ways of functioning as the body of Christ. I have grown up in a church that has changed a lot, laying aside many traditions. I am very blessed both by my Mennonite heritage and my church.
It seems to me that humans require tradition. Some people require it more than others, but we all like the familiar. It is what identifies us with those around us - our families and ethnicity. Traditions act as markers to help us keep our bearings and to remind us of foundational truths and events - advent, lent, the fourth of july, memorial day. They all serve to remind us of the things we value.
So when should traditions be laid aside? Someone once said that before you tear down a fence, you should ask why it was put there. We have cast aside a lot of traditions in the church, trading them for the "new" and the "fresh". If a tradition in the church no longer serves a purpose then it must be laid aside, or we are simply practicing dead religion. God has not called us to a system, He has called us to Himself. At the same time, before we lay aside a tradition, we must ask, "Why was it put there?" If the tradition is put aside, it must be replaced with something to serve the purpose that the tradition was originally intended to serve.
At times we seem to throw the baby out with the bath water. In an effort to get rid of dead religion we get rid of traditions. Maybe the problem is not the traditions. The problem is us. We are sinful humans, prone to forget and rebel against God as much as the Isrealites. When we throw away a tradition we simply replace it with a new one, but have we changed?