Parable of Thanksgiving Turkey
(Adapted from a Traditional Sermon Illustration)
A young husband stood in the kitchen early in the morning admiring his new bride as she took over the duty of cooking the turkey for the first time in her family’s traditional Thanksgiving dinner. She cut off both drumsticks and put them in a separate pan and continued prepping the turkey. The husband inquisitively asked, “Why did you cut off the drumsticks”, to which his new bride confidently retorted, “Because that’s the way my mom has always done it.” The husband, a bit curious, waited until later when his mother-in-law came in the kitchen and asked, “Your daughter said you always cut off the drumsticks and cook them separately from the rest of the turkey. Why have you always done that?” “Because that’s the way my mom has always done it.”, she replied. Later on in the day, when Grandma and Grandpa showed up to Thanksgiving dinner with Grammy, the young man asked Grandma, “Your daughter and granddaughter both cut off the drumsticks and cook them separate and said they do it because that’s how they learned from you. I have to know, what’s the secret? Why did you always do that?” Grandma responded as though it was a silly question, “Because that’s the way my mother always did it.” Laughing, as she overheard the exchange, Grammy could hardly contain herself. By this time they had all gathered around her to see what was so funny. As she calmed herself she said, “You want to know why I always cut off the drumsticks to the Thanksgiving turkey?” As everyone leaned in close, she continued, “Because that’s the only way it would fit into my wood-burning stove!”, she exclaimed, to the hearty laughter of all.
The moral of this traditional tale is to have a proper understanding of “why we do what we do”. We can often blindly follow the tradition of our fathers. That’s not necessarily a harmful thing, depending upon what the tradition is (like cutting the drumsticks off a turkey before cooking it), but it’s certainly not the wisest practice. And when it comes to religion, and Christianity in particular, it’s not what God wants. God doesn’t want blind followers of tradition. He desires informed/knowledgeable disciples (John 4:24).
Consider the following examples from Scripture.
In relation to God choosing Abraham, he was to teach his children the ways of the Lord. Not just the “what”, but the “why”. - "For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him." (Genesis 18:19)
God commanded Israel to teach His commandments to their sons. Generationally, they were to be an informed, educated, populace of God’s people. - "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
Knowing the traditions of God, where they came from, what their purpose is, would help the people of God to remain faithful always. - “For He established a testimony in Jacob And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they should teach them to their children, That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments, And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart And whose spirit was not faithful to God.” (Psalm 78:5-8) A knowledgeable generations helps one to be a faithful generation.
Likewise today, what are we commanded in the New Covenant? - “Fathers… bring them (your children) up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
May we be a wise generation of parents that brings up a wise generation of children in understanding why we believe what we believe and practice what we practice. If we don’t teach our kids the “why” of our faith, then we are cutting the legs of faith right out from under them. May God give us wisdom in sharing our treasured tradition of faith.