Jeff loves to tell the story about great grandmother Betty’s ham. He uses this quiet often to make a point in a sermon. Everyone in our congregation has heard this story at least once and it seems to grow into longer detail every time. Today I want to share the story with you and to the world of this great secret of the ham.
When Jeff and I first married and we would go eat at my mother’s home, she would cook the best ham. The taste and texture was incredible and it always intrigued Jeff on how she made her ham so different. He noticed that the strangest thing about the ham was the ends were cut off. So, he asked my mother about why she cut the ends of the ham out. She replied, “It’s the way my mother did it, you will have to ask her because I don’t know.” So as time passes by, Jeff takes time to go and ask grandmother Marie, why the ends of the ham are always cut out and does that make a difference on the taste and the texture. My grandmother replied, “That is the way my momma done it, so I did it that way too. You will have to ask her for the reason why.” Jeff now was very inquisitive if this trick really worked. If by cutting away the ends of the ham were the trick to this delicious and tasty ham, he had found a family secret. This secret would be passed down for generations and people would love this ham. This ham could be served not only to friends but important guest as well. As he ponders on the excellence of the ham secret, he meets with Betty. Taking a pencil and paper with him, he plans to copy every detail on what and how this ham is so great. He asked her the most important question first. “Betty, this is the best ham ever and I know this tradition has been handed down for years. There is one thing that I wish to know. Does cutting off the ham make it so good and is that the secret to this wonderful tasting ham?” She burst forth laughing and said, “Well, I Sewanee! I cut the ends off my ham because it was too big to fit in my small roasting pan. It has nothing to do with the taste and texture. I had to cut the ends out of the ham to get it to fit in my pan!”
So, the story goes to leave this motto. Just because someone else did it doesn’t mean you should do it too because of tradition. Just because great grandmother did it, doesn’t mean you must do it that way too. It wasn’t that it was wrong; it just means she had to throw away part of the ham to get it to fit in her pan. From this result as little as it seemed generations were missing out because a portion was thrown away. Tradition is good but it also can be harmful if you do them without knowing the reason, “why”. Why can be a very important truth.
This is an important story when all of us can relate to past traditions when it comes to our religious knowledge. We may go to church because that is what we have been taught. We may practice certain things because of our religious tradition. It may not mean it is wrong in ways that it will hurt, but it does mean there could be certain truths you may be missing out on because of lack of knowledge in the “why”. We may practice them because it was handed down from our elders, but the greatest thing is to find out more truths, which brings greater blessings. We must always go to the Word of God to find our answers.
Mark 7:13 Jesus said, “You are destroying the word of God through your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many other things like that.”
In my fast track discipleship class, I teach it is important that we grasp everyone’s comment or opinion and give them freedom of speech, however it must always agree with the word of God. Just because a person “feels” or “believes” doesn’t make it fact. Past traditions of feeling or believing can be the ham with the ends cut off and the real fact is you could be missing out on something better if you just ask “Why”.