It is easy to jump to conclusions, isn't it? We have such active imaginations - in fact, they are often influenced by whatever we have stored away in our memories. We simply cannot escape the fact - we "remember" stuff and it often comes back over and over again. This isn't bad when it is the good stuff, but when it is the kind of stuff we'd rather not recall, it begins to get old!
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner. (I Peter 4:12-13 The Message)
Do you know what a tradition is? It is something "handed down" - often from generation to generation. We have traditions in each of our families, churches, and communities. For example, we just celebrated the 4th of July here in the United States. This is the celebration of the birth of our country. One of the traditions of this day is to gather together to watch fireworks. I wasn't sure how this tradition got started, so I had to look it up. According to "Yahoo Answers", here is what I found:
John Adams (a Founding Father and signer of the Declaration), wrote a letter to his wife, and said that Independence Day "will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America...It will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews [performances], Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations [fireworks] from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more." (http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090704204521AASNFGw)
So, I guess John Adams was really the one proclaiming this as a tradition we'd keep as a nation. Now I know! But what about some of the other traditions we keep? Do we really know the meaning behind them? If not, maybe it is time to begin to explore them.
When my father passed away, we set out to begin some new traditions. Christmas and other big holidays just weren't the same without his presence. So, in light of the "new era" we found ourselves in without him in our celebrations, we chose to establish some new family traditions. So, instead of big family meals on Christmas, we gather at one of the homes (mine or the kids) and enjoy appetizers all day long! We spend the day grazing on foods we enjoy, but more importantly, enjoying each other and the many gifts of the day.
For us, moving on after dad's passing was a little like living with a huge void in our celebrations. The establishing of new traditions did not mean we ever forgot dad, but we did honor him in the best way we knew how - by enjoying the family even more! You see, my dad was a family man - family mattered to him. I have fond memories of days in the workshop with him, family gatherings with card games, and even the silly times when he'd don a napkin around his head and act crazy. We'd laugh together, but more importantly, we'd grow together as a family. In the forming of our new tradition, we did not forget the good part of our old tradition!
Now, what does all this have to do with our passage today? I wanted to point out some "good" traditions we have formed - based on good memories. Just as importantly, I think we need to be aware of the not so good "traditions" we have formed - based on those memories we'd rather not have. When we face these negative circumstances, we usually respond to them based on our past "impressions" of what has occurred in similar circumstances. For example, if every time you came into contact with ice on a sidewalk, you began to slip and fall, you'd form an impression of ice being an "unsafe" place to walk. Your friend could attempt to get you "out onto the ice" again - this time with ice cleats on - but you'd be recalling the past times when you'd fallen flat on your butt and be wary of the first step!
We have some memories which we "pass down" from our "old life" into our "new life" with Christ. They become "traditions" of how we respond. In turn, they influence our actions - never really allowing us to be free to form new "traditions" in Christ. The fact is, as long as we continue to do whatever we did or think however we thought in our past, we will never be fully able to enjoy and engage in our present. God wants us to be free of the "binding traditions" and able to form the "traditions of freedom" which only he can introduce us to. In order to do this, he takes us through circumstances where his glory can shine through. The moment we discover the freedom encouraged in his "refining process", we stop resisting the letting go of our past "traditions" in order to embrace the new.
What I'd like us to consider is how much of God's glory is shining through in the "traditions" we keep. If we always drift into sullen habits of thought or memory at some triggering event, perhaps it is time to ask God to form some new "traditions" of thought. He needs to help us form some new memories - no longer holding onto the memories from our past which produce these "traditions of bondage". On the 4th of July, hundreds gather in anticipation of the glory in the sky. They anticipate the bright reds, brilliant yellows, and the sparkling twinkles of white light bursting across the sky in myriads of patterns. Freedom is celebrated in a great display of color and brilliance - glory on display for all to see. The same is true when we allow God to bring forth his glory in us - freedom is on display!