In the first three posts, we looked at the cardinal virtues of community, generosity, resiliency, openness to outsiders, and diversity. In this post I want to look at tradition and celebration.
Webster defines tradition as a time honored practice or set of such practices. Tradition is complicated. There are many who see tradition as a bad thing, and it certainly can be. Tradition can be something that binds, that excludes, that stifles. Many of the conflicts between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day were about tradition. Tradition can be lifted up to something more important than it is, even to the point of something close to worship. Church programs, styles of music, or any number of things are sometimes elevated to almost the level of Scripture. A common phrase in some circles is, "We've always done it this way," when an opportunity for change comes along. Tradition can take precedence over the good of others, and can keep us from loving them. Jesus was very clear about the wrongness of putting tradition ahead of loving others and doing good to them.
On the other hand, tradition can be a good, life affirming thing. It can draw folks close and build them up. A family gathering around a table can be a good tradition. Certain practices in the church can be good traditions and can connect us with others and with those who have gone before us in the faith. Traditions can keep us in touch with our heritage, give us a sense of oneness with others, and make us feel a part of something beyond ourselves. There are many today who are rediscovering some of the traditions of centuries past, and who are experiencing a deeper faith because of it.
One of the traditions that can be a good thing is the tradition of celebration. The people of God have a long history of celebration. Israel was given days of feasting as well as days of fasting. In Deuteronomy 14:22-26, the people were even told they could sell their tithe for silver and buy enough food, wine, and strong drink to have a feast with their families. The Israelites were a celebratory people. Jesus came and spent so much time celebrating that his critics accused him of being a glutton and a drunk. When asked why his disciples didn't fast, he replied that there was no reason to fast at that time, that it was time to celebrate! Of course, those of us who follow the resurrected Christ have the best reason of all to celebrate. We are accepted by God because Jesus gave his life and then rose from the dead! Death has been defeated! If that's not a reason to celebrate than I don't know what is! N.T. Wright states that our Easter celebrations should be blow out affairs, with champagne! He says that we should party so boisterously that others look at us and wonder why. I think I agree with him. Think of all the things we celebrate. Is there really anything worth celebrating as much as the resurrection of our King, guaranteeing our resurrection? Even if we don't want to throw a huge party to celebrate what the Father has given us, we should at least be people who celebrate and not folks who go around looking down all the time. Even in the midst of the mess and suffering of life, we know we are loved by the One who is going to renew all things, and that we are being renewed as well.
Let us be people who hold to those traditions that bring us closer to Christ and who are free to celebrate with abandon the grace and mercy we have been given.
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