Remembering God, Part 6: In Traditions
At the start of this series, I began by laying out four things we risk when we do not remember who God is and all that He has done. These were:
- Falling into idolatry/trusting ourselves or our possessions (Deut. 8:13-14)
- Never growing in trust of/faith in God (Isa. 40:20-21)
- Stumbling into sin and suffering the Father’s discipline (Deut. 8:19)
- Forfeiting a generation to the enemy (Judges 2:10-11)
So how do we, as parents, make sure that our family is all about remembering God? So far we’ve looked at remembering Himin the Word, in song, and in prayer and in fellowship. This post, I’d like us to look at how the people of God remember him in our traditions and memorials.
In the modern Bible church movement there has, in my estimation, been an almost complete purge of tradition, ceremony, and memorial from church life. In our defense, I think that this has largely been a reaction to “traditionalism.” This I will define as the elevation of a tradition, or memorial, to the point where the original meaning and intent are lost. It is often replaced by the wholesale worship of the tradition itself. A rejection of such idolatry is just and right. I am afraid, however, that we have thrown the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.
Wouldn’t a more conservative approach be to recapture the true meaning and purpose of tradition and memorial in our lives? To answer this question we must first understand the answer to two other questions. First, where did we get our traditions, memorials, or ceremonies? The second is why did we get them? Let’s look to scripture as our guide.
“Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
These are only two of many, many examples you can find in both the Old and New Testaments, but I think they answer our two questions. Tradition and memorial are gifts to us, ordained, and in many cases commanded, by God. God intended their use as a tool for helping us to remember who He is and all that He has done for us throughout history.
Tradition and memorial are gifts to us, ordained – and in many cases, commanded – by God.
Does this mean that the only traditions or memorials that are okay are the ones explicit in Scripture? I would say no. You can also find places in scripture where a memorial or altar is erected, without direct instructions from God, in order to worship Him and remember something specific He had done.
Two RBC families come to mind when I think of creating tradition and memorial. The first family told me a story of their “Memorial Shelf.” This is a prominent shelf where they display items that remind them of something specific God did on their behalf in answer to prayer. To most people it might look like a shelf full of junk. But they always ask, “what is the story with all that stuff?” and then this faithful family can tell them the stories of God’s grace and mercy in their lives.
The second family created their own tradition at Christmas. It involves the dad doing a dramatic reading of the Luke account of the birth of Jesus. As they get to each new character in the account the children must go out and find that figure for the nativity. When they find it is always sitting with a pile of gifts, one for each person in the family, and they open those gifts before moving on in the story. They’ve told me this can take all day but the emphasis on the true gift of God in Jesus is rich in this family tradition and is never lost.
What am I getting at? God gave us tradition as a tool to help us and our children and their children, to remember. We must not forget and we must not allow the next generation to forget either. Don’t let traditionalism rob you of this God ordained tool. Embrace the historic traditions, make up your own, set up memorials, but don’t ever lose the reason behind the tool.
It is my prayer that, as you’ve read through this series of devotions on remembering God, you have discovered new ways for you and your family to make remembrance a vital part of your spiritual lives. In song, in prayer, in the Word, in fellowship, and in tradition – being careful, “so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deuteronomy 4:9)
May your Christmas be one of blessed memories,
Mike Meyers, Director of Children’s Ministry