WHY Have Rituals?

“The WHY . . . ? . . . Series”

“The Why . . .? . . . Series” is not about answers; WHY’s intention is to help us explore, expand, and to accept the courageous invitation to grow through the actual journey we call our lives.”

“WHY have rituals?”

A couple, who have been living together for quite some time, came to their Pastor and asked her if she would marry them. The Pastor’s curiosity got the best of her and she had to ask, “Why? Why do you want to get married?”

An older person, still quite healthy, came to his Pastor and said, “When I die, I don’t want a funeral. Just bury me and don’t waste the time with a funeral. I’m dead and gone and just let people get on with their lives.” The Pastor’s curiosity got the best of him and he had to ask, “Why? Why don’t you want us to have a funeral for us?”

Those who know me have heard me quote a colleague of mine, about weddings, “I hate weddings but I love marriages.” I really don’t hate weddings; I would prefer the wedding service would be kept simple so the focus is on the transition from being single to a couple. I would prefer that couples focus on the vulnerability which comes from the vows they make and to be open to the gift of love God wants to bless inside of them.

Those who know me have heard me say, when it comes to people not wanting to have a funeral- to just be buried, that it’s OK to “punch them in the face for their ignorance and their self-centeredness at not wanting to have a funeral.” Funerals are for the living, never for the dead. We need to gather and share our stories to help us move forward.

WHY are rituals important?

– Rituals remind us that change is a part of life and we can invite the ritual shared with others to help us learn through the changes we’re experiencing.

– Rituals remind us we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. The wedding is a reminder we are better when we give ourselves over to God first (which is what the Priests and Nuns do) and to another person, if we decide to get married.

– Rituals help us face up to the difficult realities of life (none of us will live forever- all of us will die) and how our story needs to be shared and learned from.

– Rituals expose us to God’s expansive desire to work in and through us.

– Rituals invite us to experience life in all it’s fullness as we realize we’re better as a community.

– Rituals give us permission to talk with each other about the transitions of life.

– Rituals challenge us to be vulnerable as we trust God’s help through the promise of prayers, like the Serenity Prayer: “Serenity to accept what we cannot change; Courage to changes the things we can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

– Rituals remind us we’re not the center of the universe- God is and God wants to help us live life to the fullest while also helping us know we don’t have to know it all or face life on our own.

What daily rituals do we or don’t we pay attention to?

– Wake up, (until we don’t): What attitude’s nurture or bark at us as we look at the new day?

– Cleanse ourself; shave; shower/bath; clean clothes; brush our teeth; other rituals. How do these help us let go of (or hold onto) what isn’t helpful to us now?

– Feed ourselves: Do we eat or not- if we do is it healthy or something we shove in our mouths? How much do we notice about our food and do we appreciate the gift of food?

– Connect with the bigger world: Do we pray; read a devotion; speak kind or angry words at those we share our space with? What thoughts take up space in our heads whether we alone or not. Are they helpful; negative; a repeat of the past? In what ways do we make love or war, connect or ignore the world we live in?

– Find energy to head into the day: Caffeine; energy drinks; a sense of purpose in the day; same stuff, different day? What do we do to help us see a reason to be alive?

– Do we plow through the day like a run away train in a blizzard; do we stop and smell the roses; do we pause and notice our blessings while learning from our mistakes?

WHY do we or don’t we pay attention to the rituals which make up our lives and how does where we focus our attention help or hinder us?

May the struggles Jesus went through from Maundy Thursday until Easter morning invite us to pause and learn from the rituals of: Baptism, 1st Communion; Confirmation; Graduation; Weddings; and Funerals. May these “bigger” rituals help us to grow through the “daily” rituals which are the building blocks for a better life. May our rituals be good soil helping us to love, forgive, and serve one another as God through Jesus taught us.

May God’s peace become an important ritual in all our lives,

Pastor Jim

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