“R” is for Ritual (March 8, 2013)

…Opening To…

O Lord, you are my Lord and my God, and I have never seen you. You have made and remade me and bestowed on me all the good that I possess. (St. Anselm, Proslogion)

…Listening In…

After taking the bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “R” is for Ritual. This word gets a bad rap. More often than not, the word “empty” precedes it, as in “such and such was just empty ritual.” The connotation here is that ritual happens simply for show; there’s no depth or meaning in it because rote repetition has ground these things out.

Thankfully, the United States has a national pastime called baseball. And baseball proves once and for all that ritual, no matter how repetitive, is most certainly not empty. Every ballplayer has his own personal ritual when he comes up to bat. So-and-so spits on his batting gloves and slaps his hands together between each pitch. That other guy unfastens and refastens his batting gloves half a dozen times before stepping to the plate. A certain hurler walks once around the pitching mound in a clockwise direction before every delivery.

There is nothing empty about these rituals. What seem to baseball outsiders as odd idiosyncrasies, are to purists the signs of the undiluted nuance of the game. The players’ rituals help them focus on the incredibly difficult tasks of throwing a ball at nearly 100 mph to a spot about three inches square or hitting that same ball after tracking it through all four of the dimensions.

Ritual in church is far from empty, as well. The repetitive action we take each time we enter the sanctuary helps us to focus on what is important in our lives, namely the ways God is moving in those lives and the services God is calling us to perform. So, play ball. Er…I mean, thanks be to God!

…Praying For…

Dear God, you are the presence that blesses our ritual with meaning and purpose. Help me to find the focus that ritual provides so that I can discern how you would have me use my life in your service. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, grateful for the word that you speak daily into my soul, the word that continues to create me and helps me to grow.

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