In our family, traditions determine how we do certain things, talk certain ways, and observe certain rituals. Some traditions go back many generations, and some are traditions that we have started in our immediate family.
For instance, my mom's family has a tradition of getting together for a family reunion once a year at a certain place in a certain town on a certain day. Like homecoming celebrations at churches, our family reunion was a tradition long before I was old enough to keep it, and has become one of those traditions that I have adopted as important in my own immediate family.
It's important to get together with aunts, uncles, and cousins and tell those old stories about the things that happened when we were growing up. We remember Aunt Kate's delicious cakes and my grandfather's get-togethers around the barbecue pit during summer. And we will never forget the times we spent in the rocking chairs of Miss Sudie's Country Store, eating ice cream bars and drinking colas that cost only a dime. Family reunion has become a tradition that I hope my children will continue to observe as they grow older and establish their own families.
But there's a difference between traditions and bad habits. Just because we may have always done something one way may not be the best reason to continue. When we establish patterns of behavior for selfish or less than honorable reasons and then perpetuate those patterns of behavior in our attitudes for many years, they become labeled as traditions, but really are no more than bad habits.
The story comes to mind of the young bride who wanted to cook a ham. She called her mother for directions. The mother told her that she had to cut the end off of the ham. When the bride wanted to know why, the mother said, "Because my mother did it that way."
When the mother called her mother to find out the reason, she said, "because when I was young, I had a pan that was not quite big enough for the ham, so I cut the end off."
The original reason for cutting the ham no longer applied to the situation, but the mother had perpetuated a habit based on someone else's story.
When we think of which traditions and stories we want to pass on to others, let's make them the traditions that we intentionally establish because of their meaning, not the senseless habits that we never fix.
The Psalmist reminds us to pass on stories of God's goodness and grace, recounting all the times that God has been with our ancestors and continues to be with us in our daily struggles. Keep good traditions of telling family stories of God's grace. Don't keep it quiet, but tell others about what God has done in your life.
Start a new tradition in your family of sharing God's Good News with others and of worshipping together as a family. See you in church on Sunday.
Jan McCoy is associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Covington. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.