How Ritual Works

July 4th, 2013
Creative Commons | Waiting For The Word

They found him in the temple.
Luke 2:46 RSV

His parents did not realize that the boy Jesus had stayed behind in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover. When they returned to look for him, “they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”

We need our rituals, such as going to the temple, to keep us in touch with the transcendent in life and so be fully alive. The word ritual has the same root as harmony, reason, arithmetic. Things are in harmony when we admit the transcendent. We have a reason for being. Events begin to add up to something.

Worship is one of life’s rituals. Once a week we are reminded that things fit together because of grace. Without grace, the disparate strands of life can pull apart.

Prayer is a ritual. A friend of mine had a tough problem. We talked about the ritual of prayer. He was moved to pray as never before. “I prayed not knowing what I was praying for,” he said, “but I came out of it with a sense of peace. My only problem,” he added with a laugh, “is that I made a lot of promises to God that I don’t know how I’ll keep!”

Reading the Bible is a ritual. We find ourselves pulling the Bible off the shelf every week, sometimes every day. “There is more in this book that finds me,” Lincoln said, “than any other.” We are surprised at the insights as various thoughts, feelings, and images make their impact on us.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a ritual. We meet with our small group every week, sometimes twice a week, sometimes every day. It is the power of the small group, discovered by the first-century Christians as koinonia. “Bear one another’s burdens,” Paul wrote, “and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).

It is rituals like these that fit the sacred and secular together. When we find ourselves doing them, it is grace, the “higher power” of Alcoholics Anonymous, harmonizing, making life rational, getting things to add up.


Thank you for moving me to perform my daily and weekly rituals. Amen.

excerpt from: Practical Grace: How to Find God in the Everyday by Robert K. Hudnut. Copyright©2013 by Abingdon Press. Used with permission. 

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