Tradition

Weep no more, my lady
No, weep no more, today
We sing one song
For my old Kentucky home
For my old Kentucky home
Far away.

(From My Old Kentucky Home, by Stephen Foster)

It pleases me that you continue to remember and honor me by keeping up the traditions of the faith I taught you. All actual authority stems from Christ.                                                                                          I Corinthians 11:2 (The Message)

Fiddler on the Roof is a great play and movie, so when I hear this word- Tradition-, I can’t help but think of Tevya on the roof, singing his haunting song. But today, I am thinking about some other traditions. One of them is the singing of My Old Kentucky Home before the Kentucky Derby. When the entire crowd sings along at the chorus, it just brings tears to my eyes. Why? I’m not sure. I am not from Kentucky, nor do I have southern roots. I suppose it is like the 7th inning stretch when the crowd stands and sings together Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Whenever my son and I go to a ballgame, we stand, put arms around one another’s shoulder, and sing this traditional ditty. Yes, that gets me teary too.

Collective acts like singing common songs, or having long-standing practices that we have memorialized into the culture are very reassuring and strengthening. Things that we can count on in a changing environment bring us a sense of comfort.

So today, if you watch the Derby (and I will, because it is a great tradition), listen to the song and see how people join in together. Oh, and by the way, the song is not a racist relic of the Old South as some may think. This little piece from Smithsonian magazine is worth noting…

 Few of those singing along, however, may realize that the original lyrics were not a “Dixie”-esque paean but actually a condemnation of Kentucky’s enslavers who sold husbands away from their wives and mothers away from their children. As Foster wrote it, “My Old Kentucky Home” is actually the lament of an enslaved person who has been forcibly separated from his family and his painful longing to return to the cabin with his wife and children.

Yes, it is good to visit the origins of our traditions too. Let’s just make sure that we try to hold on to traditions worth keeping.

Prayer: Lord, you give us memories and rituals to give comfort in changing times. Thank you for that plan, Amen

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