While I was in New York City last month, I had the opportunity to see the musical, Fiddler on the Roof. It’s long been a favorite of mine partly because I enjoy how it conveys some aspects of Jewish tradition. In the days since my trip, the songs have continued to stay with me, particularly, the first one, “Tradition.” Bless the church staff for having to hear me sing it in the hallways!
In the musical, the lead character Tevye (the “Papa”) introduces the song with these words: Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many years. Here in Anatevka we have traditions for everything. How to sleep, how to eat. How to work, how to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered and always wear a little prayer shawl this shows are constant devotion to God… [and] because of our traditions everyone of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do. Without our traditions our lives would be a shaky as… A fiddler on the roof!
While I’ve been singing “Tradition,” I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about traditions of our Christian faith. In this Asian culture that is growing more secular every day, I fear the Christian community is letting to many of our traditions go. I’m not one for holding onto a tradition just for tradition sake but I am lamenting the loss of many traditions that I believe are very valuable, traditional help anchor our faith and keep us grounded in Christ.
For example, a children’s ministry colleague shared her to stress over the fact that many of the parents in her church are letting the children decide if they want to go to Bible study and worship on Sunday. She asked, “why is that question even asked? Why are so many families no longer honoring the tradition of remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy? When did the rich traditions of the church stop becoming cherish traditions? When did worship, Bible study, Christian fellowship, and service become optional?”
Simply put, they are becoming optional because Christians are making them optional. Every time we say “yes” to something that takes place during Bible study and worship, we’re chipping away at tradition. When our schedules are so full we no longer have daily family meals together, we’re chipping away at tradition when there’s no time to pray together, we’re chipping away at tradition. When being the church minister the bottom of our priority list, we’re chipping away at tradition.
In the middle of the season of Lent, as we seriously examine our lives in the light of Christ teaching, I invite you to join me and pondering this question: what traditions of the Christian faith have I (my family) let go that I (we) need to return to? Tevye said, ”Without our traditions our lives would be a shaky as a fiddler on the roof.” Our “roof” is not a stable as it used to be, but it hasn’t altogether collapsed. Let’s see what we can do to make sure it never does.
Grace & Peace,