You know how you always skip the genealogies in Matthew?
You should try slogging through Aaron’s ordination ritual in Exodus.
I tried – I mean every piece of clothing? The color of threads? Do this, say this….
I skipped a few words, then a sentence or two,
And finally with a teen’s “whatever,” I skipped whole verses.
“Hey, hold on here,” my adult intellect briefly asserted itself.
“All this meant something to someone, somewhere in time.”
But without extensive reading and research it does not means much to me.
“I don’t need this ritual,” I scoff.
“Yet,” my adult intellect argues, “It must have had significance to be so meticulously recorded.”
So, putting my teenager’s “Whatever” aside, I reconsidered.
And I reconnected with the ritual (something we do over and over.)
And I discovered in the practicing process, the reason we began the ritual
Becomes secondary to the ritual itself, and, being the people we are,
We make the ritual more important than its origin.
Then, being the conscientious Christians we have become,
We throw the ritual out when we realize what we’ve done.
We dust our hands of the rusty remains,
Invent new rituals as tools, and start over.
And, being the people we are, don’t realize what we’ve done.
No? You don’t? I don’t need rituals?
Yet, we feel we haven’t worshiped until we do certain things.
The raising of hands, clapping, the open fellowship time, the music,
The announcements, (even if they are projected instead of spoken)
Prayer – the elements in our lives and worship create a ritual.
But we blame the ritual. “It’s lost its meaning,” we insist.
When it is us who have lost the meaning of the ritual.
It is me who has grown distant.
I have allowed myself to drift so the ritual doesn’t mean anything.
I’m concentrating on the ritual instead of living the life that infuses the ritual with meaning.
When I get this straightened out – Behold! Rituals mean something.
I don’t need to have certain things at certain times to feel I’ve worshiped.
But when I respond to those in certain ways, it means something. The ritual has meaning.
The music or the different times of prayer in a service, express my different needs,
And the sermon – Well, who knew the pastor could think so deeply?
And when I get this straight
I can go almost anywhere – any church – any denomination
And find meaning in their ritual – even if it’s not exactly what it means to them.
But that’s also true within my local congregation; with people with whom I share a common ritual.
Hey! This makes the potential of extra richness possible in my relationship with God.
My scorn for the idea of rituals in my life melts, and suddenly I’m open to all sorts of things in life.
If I bring openness with me, I find enrichment – if I expect ritual to create openness, it fails.
But in my daily walk I get it backwards often enough, that in frustration I restlessly turn to God,
And I’m thankful because, every time, God graces me with His presence and I start again.
Exodus Chapter 29