The Power of Ritual

Devotional Reading   1 Corinthian 11:23-34   –   ODB 10.01.14     –

Rituals are a very important part of God’s prescription for human behavior and for good reason. Neuroscientists are still trying to figure out precisely how memories and their classification, storage and recall works. One thing is certain. Contextual repetition is essential for what we refer to as “good memory”. We all know that repetition is important. We need to do that to survive early childhood school experiences in which we are taught nursery rhymes and simple mathematical equations. What is not so well-known is that it is important to do things the same way each time for lasting memories to be formed and properly stored in an efficient manner. It is more than a coincidence that both repetition, and doing things the same way each time are critical components of rituals.

God knows how our brain works. After all, He made it. He also knows how our minds work, assuming that there is a difference between our brain and our mind. Even more so than Ralph Waldo Emerson who is credited with this quote, God knows that when you, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” The life of the Children of Israel was regulated by rules and rituals. Many of these were accompanied by harsh penalties in cases of breach. Touching the ark while it was being moved was punishable by death. Out of the kindness of his heart, and possibly as a reflex action when the oxen stumbled, Uzzah reached out and touched the ark. God killed him instantly. That was enough to show that God was very serious about compliance.
We live in the day of grace, but it is the same God who presides over our day that presided over the days of Uzzah. God does not change. So fast-forward if you will to 1 Corinthians 11:29. “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” Compliance is required by God.

There are some Christian groups who do not treat the Lord’s Supper as symbolic. They believe that the bread is the actual body and the wine is the actual blood of Jesus. Most Christians do not believe this, but perhaps those who do, may have an easier time grasping the awesome significance of the symbolism. The problem with rituals is that we easily become accustomed to them, and we do them reflexively. This ought not to be the experience of any Child of God as we do anything that reminds us of the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and return of our blessed lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We are expected to give serious thought and provide emotional involvement to every action that is part of our Christian journey, even if we do it 100 times in the same day.

If someone uses the name of Jesus irreverently in my presence, I literally caution them, even though it could mean that they accelerate their blasphemy. For me the name of Jesus is not just special, it is unique. It is the embodiment of all that God is and of all that he means to me. God wants us to do important things repeatedly. He does not want us to do them ritualistically.

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