Tradition

Israeli actor Chaim Topol, 86, gave us his 1971 interpretation of Tevye, embodying the mystery of tradition and renewal. As I deal with the secession of people and congregations from the United Methodist Church, Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof helps me bless those who leave or stay.

Christianity is a “do this in remembrance” faith, but also part of a more ancient balance that remembers some old things and forgets some old things. It’s never either/or. It’s always both/and. We remember the meaningful past as we welcome the hopeful future. We differ in what we choose to remember and how we choose to hope.

Some of my favorite traditions are relatively new blends of the familiar and the nostalgic. Many Southerners seceded from the Union in 1861 in the name of a tradition that was brought to America in 1619 (or 1565). It was contrary to an older tradition that still sounds astonishingly new: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female.”

As Methodists discern what traditions are most vital, I respect everyone’s sadness about what’s being lost and everyone’s hope about what’s being gained–confident that what’s now familiar and preferential will change with time, while the most meaningful and most life-giving traditions will long endure.

John Wesley (1703-1791), from Biography Online; and Chaim Topol (born 1935), from IMDb

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