Traditions. I literally cannot hear, type, or speak that word without hearing the song from “Fiddler on the Roof.”
I have been asked to do a Holy Week study or daily posting. The request, “Would you write or share about Holy Week? I did not grow up in a system that had any type of traditions like that, and I want to understand those moments, symbols and rituals more.”
I can remember serving on staff at a Methodist church as a youth minister. For the most part, we looked like any other typical youth group but, since we were a part of the Methodist church we would have the students participate in certain aspects of the liturgical calendar. If you were in our youth group and your family attended on Sunday mornings, there was probably nothing odd or different, but if you happened to be a student that only attended youth activities, when we had an Ash Wednesday service, or did something in regards to the church calendar, their responses were humorous; they were lost, confused or maybe even a little uncomfortable with creeds, responsive prayers, the imposition or ashes, stuff with candles. If you have not experienced those types of traditions, things we often associate with “high church,” you might think those moments are archaic, or in some way lacking the spiritual depth that other denominations seem to experience.
When asked why I appreciate ritual and symbols so much I explain it like this:
There’s this guy, John Wesley, he is attributed with the Methodist movement. He was a part of the Church of England, but wanted to see some things shift within his system. He taught about this model known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. There’s so much to it, but my simple mind thinks of it this way. He felt four aspects on how we processed our faith and managed the church should be held together. These were scripture, tradition, reason/logic, and experience. I think different personalities gravitate to one of these “wheels”, but you need all four to drive the car. And I think it’s super easy to get off-balance.
I have had seasons where experience is all I sought after. I needed tears during worship, I needed dramatic and moving stories, I needed to “feel” God. Which is so important, but we can risk essentially “getting high” on God, using the Holy Spirit, and neglecting the other facets of faith.
It has been easy for me to journey through faith trying to lean on logic, reading apologetics, studying arguments, digging for proof, which is awesome, but while education can draw you toward enlightenment, it can also become a stumbling block on the very same path.
Scripture is another part of our faith. We have this text, and it’s power and value can be astounding. But as we go along, “the Bible says so,” without context (education) and discernment (experience) can be dangerous. When we speak of the word as a “weapon,” there is a difference in harming and protecting.
Then we come to tradition. This was the trickiest for me because I wasn’t raised around a ton of church traditions. I can remember thinking Catholics, Lutherans, and those more traditional branches of the faith were “missing it.” Where was the life? Why did we think doing the same things over and over would draw someone into a relationship with Christ? But I was immature and I was wrong. Also, I was arrogant. To think that thousands upon thousands of years with thousands upon thousands of believers and great thinkers finding value and depth in these moments, but it was “my generation” that finally “got it”? Arrogance.
Scripture points toward tradition. Jesus practiced traditions.
Logic reinforces the value of tradition. Science verifies the power of tradition.
Experience is part of the point of tradition. It is the roots of why we do the things we do. We just forget.
The older I get, the more I value tradition. The more I see the beauty, the art of intentionally crafting moments that call us to return to reminders of God’s presence, love and God’s people. We need rites of passage. We need reminders. We need celebrations. We need marked moments. These things shape our culture, reinforce our community, and set the course for our future.
Holy Week is one facet of Lent, which is one facet of the church calendar, which is one facet of church history, which is one facet of what you are exploring/why you are even reading this. So let’s journey together, maybe explore a little tradition. Let’s remember, together.
And you’re welcome if you now have the song from “Fiddler on the Roof” in your head.