Journey: “Tra–di–tion!”

Read:  “A New Path to Aliveness”

I hardly ever read the word  ‘tradition’ without hearing the song of the same name in ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’  I don’t think it is a detour, because it is clear from the play that Tevia is struggling to figure out what tradition is, and what to do with it.

Similarly, McLaren shows that people in Jesus’ day wrestled with tradition also.  I believe he is correct in reminding us that Jesus regarded tradition as something that must be preserved, but not cloned.  By its very nature, tradition comes to us with the requirement to apply it to our time and place.  John Wesley called it ‘living faith’–as opposed to dead orthodoxy.

Some time back, I was helped in discovering that the word literally means ‘handed off.’  My mind goes back to high school relay races, where each of us ran our designated distance with the baton in our hand, eventually handing it to the next runner.  If we did it well, the baton made it to the finish line, while passing through the hands of multiple racers.

Our path to aliveness is like the track we ran on in high school–a track where we receive, each in our time and turn, the faith delivered to us by the saints, and then we run with it across the years of our generation, being careful to hand it off to those who will run after us.

Tradition is alive whenever and however we can say, while running our leg of the race, “This works!  It makes our life the way God intends for it to be.”

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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2 Responses to Journey: “Tra–di–tion!”

  1. David Brazelton says:

    An excellent article to ponder & heed.

  2. Jim Bradshaw says:

    Unfortunately, there is much misunderstanding today with the use of the words “tradition” and “religion,” which are often used negatively in the Christian circles I often travel among today. We can see that “tradition” can be seen in both a positive and negative connotation in the scriptures, and actually “religion” is used rarely, but in a positive connotation in the scriptures. Thus, we must be clear in what we mean by these words when we use them. You have done so here in this post concerning “tradition.” If we dare try to interpret what God is saying today void of historical interpretation, then we indeed put ourselves and those influenced by us to a great disadvantage. Let us continue to maintain the unity of the Spirit that includes the wisdom of the past.

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