Tradition is so much a part of our daily lives as Americans. Because our past is different from that of our neighbor, our traditions define where we have come from. They give us a sense of self. Regardless of this, often the purpose behind traditions is forgotten. Unfortunately, this is most commonly seen in a religious setting. A tradition of faithfulness is by no means bad. But the traditions of religious practices that are not understood do not actually lead to true worship. Simply going through the motions is not enough. Worship is not something that takes detailed theological knowledge. Rather, it is something that takes a conscience effort of reflection. Worship should be done to glorify God by whatever means the worshipper feels is appropriate without contradicting God’s word. The best worship I ever experienced was while sitting on top of a mountain with my best friend at sunset singing hymns completely off key. It was something very untraditional and unique but so meaningful that I will never forget it as long as I live. Sitting within God’s beautiful creation and listening to the sounds of nature brought me closer to God than I have ever been before. This type of connection is what worship is about.
Until last year when I took a class on Christian Worship I thought the only appropriate way to worship was in a very traditional, liturgical way. After taking the class I realized that liturgy is only helpful if I understand what I am saying. If not it is just acting along with a script. Every week the same words are said at the same time for emphasis and reflection, not just for tradition. Liturgy speaks truths. It acts as a guide to faith. If the worshiper not only believes what they are saying but acts upon it, they are attempting to follow a true Christian life. Liturgy is most often scripturally based. With that understanding the believer can see that words are just words until there is a meaning behind them. Personally, this is the most effective manner of worship as I must force myself to focus on God rather than just singing along to a song with a good beat. In a more contemporary setting I find myself becoming distracted by the tune and beat rather than focusing on the lyrics as an expression of my faith. Though this is true for me, the person next to me could find liturgy to be dull and unmeaningful. He could prefer praise music where God’s presence is felt through the beat. All spoken words are seemingly spontaneous as they are spoken freely and without script. Regardless of the many debates, neither side is right or wrong if worship is done with a purpose.
One piece of personal tradition that I have recently come to question is my family’s attendance of the 8:15 worship service. At first upon reflection I realized that the later services seem to take up too much of the day. It was not until recently that this struck me as odd. Sunday is accepted as the Sabbath – a day that should be given entirely to God and rest. I definitely embrace the day as such. Every Sunday afternoon I can be found sleeping for at least an hour. I use it as a refresher to start off a new week. After thinking about it, I became concerned with my parents’ tendency to do housework on Sundays. It seems like they never just relax. The reason they go to church early is so that they can accomplish more throughout the day. Were they missing the point? After thinking about it more intently, church was not a chore that needed to be done and over with but rather it was the perfect start to the day. It is something my parents look forward to every week. They do not mind waking up early to have the fellowship of those at the early service. Moreover, the tasks that are chores to me are things my parents enjoy doing. Weeding the garden is not work for my mom but rather a form of luxury. My parents have worked hard for what they have and they find leisure in caring for it. As long as the cause and effect both glorify God and fall in line with the Word, there is no problem with tradition.
Living in the 21st Century tradition is a very sensitive subject. It is something that should be respected as long as it is good and meaningful. Birthday dinner with the family, Friday night football games, and town festivals are all traditions that people have a difficult time abandoning. In these cases, it is not necessary to know why the gathering is taking place but the event itself is the focus. Secular tradition is quite different. In a faith-based tradition it is absolutely crucial to know why things are being done so they can be appreciated for their full value. If tradition brings people together and closer to God, it cannot be faulted. Tradition is something that can be truly wonderful and beautiful if it is not abused.
Janine Foster is a junior from Mantua, Ohio, majoring in Political Science and History.