Thursday, January 04, 2007

Thoughts on Tradition



As the nation said its final farewell to President Gerald Ford this week, I was transfixed with the spectacle and majesty of tradition as it played out in brilliant military, civilian and religious pageantry. From the angelic chorus of age-old hymns to the thundering reverberation of 21-gun artillery fire, the tribute paid to President Ford was soulfully evocative and rich in ceremony. I wondered what contemporary expressions could swell the emotion and bestow the honor befitting a man of such goodness and un-sung virtue.

You have to wonder what God thinks about our traditions. Those held and those broken. Is there a place in the present for the past? Did Gerald Ford deserve anything less than a glorious, ceremonial farewell?

I love contemporary music and modern worship. I enjoy it personally and I see the positive impact that it can have on others. But in our zeal to flow with the current of a postmodern world, are we being impetuous and dangerously wholesale in our abandonment of things past? Does everything that once knit us together need to be supplanted by the trendy and hip?

I was reminded of a sermon I heard about by one who was, perhaps, too quick to junk tradition. A pastor who encouraged his flock to ignore their biblical commentaries and listen to what God told him. Can we rightfully take the scholarship and divine workings of ages past and click them into the recycle bin? Was God not alive in the minds, hearts and souls of generations of scholars who came before us? So that they and future generations would be well served and enlightened?

Is there a place in the present for the past?

Former presidential speech writer and columnist Peggy Noonan recently opined about the Ford funeral in The Wall Street Journal:

... I didn't plan to watch it, but every time I saw it I couldn't stop. Why do we do this, dust off the pomp and circumstance and haul out the ruffles and flourishes? It's not only to mark a death, even of so respected and highly charged a figure as a former president. Why do network television chiefs and newspaper editors decide not to leave the story until it's over, even when from day one it seems stale?

Because it's not stale. We're renewing.

(Photo by Echo9er; see http://flickr.com/photos/echo9er/191395529/ for restrictions.)

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