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Aug 05

‘Tradition’ … good or bad?

I joked with my Kid’s Hope boy this week “Are you reading my mind?” It was a scary thought. Earlier this year Sue and I were listening to a program on the radio while driving somewhere. We were fascinated by the guest on the program. Then on Sunday morning a very lovely and generous person handed me a little gift ‘for reading on the train’. It was a copy of that book. I wondered if the giver had been hiding in the back seat of our car that day! The author of that book was talking about his extraordinary life as a shepherd on the fells in the Lake District in the UK. He was such an articulate man, who never wanted to leave the tradition continued in his family for many generations. He and his mates at school deliberately chose not to reveal their true intelligence to the teachers because they saw that as a dangerous thing to do when all they wanted to do join the tradition that had remained unbroken for aeons being a shepherd on the fells. It was a tradition that was in their being, in their soul. It is apparent that his desire to continue that tradition had nothing to do with any lack of intelligence. The book he has written, and his capacity to speak about it, bear ample proof to the contrary. Yet sometimes we speak of continuing tradition in such derogative terms. Doing so has become a bit of a tradition in itself … but a much less intelligent one. Tradition is seen as old-fashioned … yes … even unintelligent … when it is in fact so much more. We in the Christian Church are inheritors of a rich and very ancient tradition. Yes, that tradition is often talked about in derogatory terms … sometimes even by people in the church who think everything has to be continually novel. But we miss something radically life-giving if we fail to appreciate the richness of that which is at one time so ancient, yet ever new and life-giving in the present, and a rich source of confident hope for the future. And ‘Thank you!’ to the giver of that book.

–  (Rev) Stan