Friday, January 25, 2008

Rethinking the Value of Ritual

Wikipedia (referencing the Oxford dictionary) defines ritual as "a set of actions, often thought to have symbolic value, the performance of which is usually prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community by religious or political laws because of the perceived efficacy of those actions"

I got to thinking about rituals tonight as I was reading where God established the ritual of Passover in Exodus 12.

Ex 12:14 - 'Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. (NAS)

Ex 12:24-27 - And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. 25 "When you enter the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. 26 " And when your children say to you, ' What does this rite mean to you?' 27 you shall say, 'It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.'" (NAS)

I noticed two (rather obvious) things here: It was important to God 1) that His people remember what He did for them and 2) that they pass this remembrance along to future generations. He chose a ritual to serve both of these purposes in this passage.

I got to thinking how we in the Protestant church in general and even more so as the Charismatic church have devalued ritual. (I'm not wagging a finger...I understand how/why this started. Rituals can all-too-easily lose their meaning and either become mindless or become the focus instead of a reminder of what the where the focus is supposed to be.) I remember one lady who came to our church for a while asked me if our church held Maundy Thursday services. I told her no, we did not, but I did not tell her I didn't even know what Maundy Thursday was. I knew Maundy Thursday was the Thursday of Holy Week, but I did not know much more than that until I researched it tonight.

Somewhere along the way, I thought about the double standard some of us in the Protestant, Charismatic church have about rituals. We avoid "Christian rituals" often times because they are "dead and meaningless". But if our children wanted to role-play a 'Satanic ritual' from a book, TV show or whatever, we would begin an all-night prayer vigil for their souls and immediately launch into a 30 minute sermon (unless it was an "innocent" cartoon or game that is indoctrinating our children...but I'll leave that for another time). Why is it that we assign "power" to a Satanic ritual and yet no power to a Godly ritual? The Apostle Paul taught us just the opposite (1 Corinthians 8:4-6) talking about food sacrificed to idols.

I will end this post the way I end my daily Bible study...with the question "How do I need to respond?" Here is what I wrote down tonight:
  1. Figure out what are some of the rituals of my faith. Stop and think about them instead of repeat them mindlessly. Research them to appreciate the meaning more fully.
  2. Perhaps read more about some of the rituals of the Church that I no little or nothing about.
  3. Consider what I am passing on to Amanda as far as rituals of the Hurt family's faith.
If you are a Christian, what meaning do rituals hold in your life?

1 comment:

oldfatguy said...

One of the things that disturbs me about getting rid of rituals is the fact that too many times the good things are tossed with the bad. I have noticed this most in the songs we sing in church. There were a lot of the old songs that should have been tossed out but there were also a lot of good solid praise and worship songs that are avoided in the modern charismatic chuch. Kind of like the old saying. "Throwing out the baby with the bath water".