I think tradition gets a bad rap.
Tradition makes some people think of stiff and old… and especially when used to describe worship.
But the people who vouch for contemporary worship often forget to realize that they are creating traditions of their own and it will become a traditional worship to them… in a sense. Am I making sense…?
But tradition is important, because of our deep and rich history in the Church and Christian faith. Our liturgy and theology has been deeply influenced by the liturgical traditions and thinking from the early church, whether we are Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant. Tradition informs our identity as Christians and as the Church of Christ.
However, when we get embedded in tradition in such a way, that we are no longer open to new revelations of God, that’s when tradition has gone awry. The temple system in Jerusalem was so ingrained in their way of tradition that they were not open to the ways and words of God in Flesh.
A lot of times, churches don’t know why they do what they do, because they’ve done it for so long. There was a church who, when reciting the Lord’s Prayer, would turn around and look at the back of the church. The new pastor couldn’t figure out why this was so. After a few weeks of digging, she discovered that long ago, a banner with the Lord’s Prayer was hung in the back of the sanctuary, and the congregation would turn around to read the words. But now the Lord’s Prayer banner has been gone for a long time, but people continue to turn around and recite the Lord’s Prayer, and some of them don’t even know why they do so!
Tradition is important because it keeps us connected with the rich and deep history of our story. Tradition is a continuation of our story in God and as God’s children.
But when tradition takes over… when we do things and don’t know why we do them… when we are not open to the new revelations and visions God may give to us, we have abused tradition and we will start experiencing decline in our faith. We just end up with a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy type of faith and belief.