I’ve rehearsed this post for a few weeks in my mind. Given that today we will be participating in a great deal of ritual… have I mentioned we are graduating from seminary TODAY! [smile]… it seems like the right time to write. Yet I feel like these thoughts are still just in early formation so please forgive me if they sound that way.
I first began to think about the blessing of ritual near the end of April when one of our pastors ended a sermon series titled “Spiritual, But Not Religious” with a sermon all about it. It’s been a several weeks since I heard the sermon, but I’ll try to summarize. Ritual is accused of being stagnant, dry, or unchanging. Sometimes, he shared, people allow ritual to be a barrier to their joining in a religious community. Yet the repetition that is ritual is life giving because it encourages us to posture ourselves in a way that invites us into community with each other. This is the part that I think Caleb liked most about the sermon because Charlie used a scene from The Karate Kid as illustration of his point. [smile] You remember when Mr. Miyagi has Daniel wash and wax his car– “wax on, wax off”– and Daniel gets frustrated because he feels like this has nothing to do with learning karate. Then Mr. Miyagi reveals that these repetitive actions were training his body to move in the ways he would need to for karate. Ritual works in the same way attuning our hearts through repetitive actions to worship in a community of faith.
Ritual also can be a point of connection. Here’s where I’m feeling particularly blessed by ritual today. The graduation ceremony we will participate in later today will follow the format of last year’s graduation ceremony and the year before that and the year following. We will process in. We will walk across the platform to receive our diploma. We will commit ourselves to being in service to the world. We will process out.
The Charge to the Class of 2013:
Called by God and the church, we now go forth to be God’s people in the world. Our calls come in many forms, yet we have all said: “Here I am; send me.” Having been trained, nurtured, and challenged in seminary, we now seek to share God’s love and justice through service in the world.
The shared experience of this graduation ritual connects us with a community of former and future students of Wesley and for that I am thankful. The ritual of graduation solidifies my connection with a community of persons I have come to know well and love dearly. The ritual of graduation connects the work Caleb and I will be doing to seek justice, show mercy, and encourage loving-kindness with the work of this community of graduates and the community of former graduates and future graduates. Oh what a blessing is this connection!
Today I am thankful for ritual.
What are you grateful for?