Monday, April 5, 2010

Anchored by tradition

Another Easter Sunday has come and gone and I again let the Alleluia out of the box to another gaggle of delighted children. (For those who have never done this, at my church we have revived the ancient tradition of "burying the Alleluia" for the Lenten season. We very symbolically place a banner or some other object in a box on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. We say goodbye for six weeks and then joyously release it on Easter morning.) We have done this for a number of years and it has truly blessed the children of the congregation who participate in the ritual.

As I looked over the upturned faces of the children gathered for the big moment yesterday I realized that most of them had never known an Easter without this ritual. It is one of their Easter traditions - an anchor that holds Easter in place from year to year. Churches have tons of these traditions, and so do most families.

I got to thinking that the symbolic anchors of tradition have the same benefits and detriments as real boat anchors. Both traditions and anchors limit the distance we can drift from where we intend to be - whereever that may be. They can also keep the "boat" in place so that we can leave and come back. When we are in the stormy parts of life, traditions can hold us steady, just as an anchor can steady a boat.

Likewise, anchors and traditions can have detriments. A 100-pound anchor will sink an inflatable raft, and a wrongly shaped anchor can't grab some kinds of riverbeds. Some traditions are too cumbersome or just don't work in some settings and have to be replaced with new designs.

Traditions, like anchors, are tools. They can be useful, helpful and delightful. Pick a few and keep the ones you love, the ones that fit and serve your family's needs. Take good care of them but continually evaluate if they are the right ones for the current job - and if they're not? Celebrate what they meant to you with a photo or a scrapbook page, or a by writing about them. Then replace them with a new tradition that can be a better anchor for the river you find yourself in this year!

So - jump on in and swim back to the boat. There's something keeping it in place!

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