One of my New Year’s resolutions was to party more. I suppose what I mean is to have more opportunities to come together with friends and family. Our culture is increasingly disconnect, probably due to the way technology has transformed the way we communicate. But yet we have not come to a new equilibrium of how to “do togetherness” in enough ways. We are increasingly connected, yet disconnect at the same time.
The power of ritual is seen in Genesis today. And while it is a death and a burial, a sad occasion, it is a ritual of coming together. Jacob has given his final words to each of his sons. The legacy of God’s double promise of land and progeny is expanded greatly as he passes it off to the next generation. Now we recount his death and burial in Canaan at the Machpelah cave.
Mourning and lamentation fill this passage. Joseph throws himself over his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him. He instructed his physicians to have his father’s body embalmed.
All of the passages today involve the ritual of coming together. Here in Genesis it is not for miraculous food or heavenly togetherness (like the 1 Cor and Mark passages), but it is close! To embalm the body is thoroughly Egyptian, not an Israelite practice, and yet it becomes an opportunity for all these different people to come together – the servants of Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s family, the elders of Joseph’s household, the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all of Joseph’s brothers and their household.
In a strange encounter that foreshadows Moses’ repeated requests to depart to Israel, Joseph goes to Pharaoh to ask for permission to ritually bury Jacob all the way back in his homeland. In their grief and loss, the community is able to come together.
Not surprisingly, after this time, Joseph is able to purge his own soul and forgive his brothers.
The power of ritual should not be overlooked. It has the power to capture imagination and transform perspectives. It allows God to work in our lives and knit together a new story for our future.
Whether it is the feeding of many thousands, the mystical union of the Lord’s Supper, or the burial of a loved one, it gives us time with one another and with God. It is where the mystery of faith and the reality of God’s presence become more real.
Think about that for a minute. It is not just the occasional birthday party that provides togetherness, but all sorts of rituals in our day. There are many reasons to party, and I intend to take em. Speaking of, Thunder Up! Tomorrow will be a big night, playing the Clippers again. Look at that, rituals of togetherness abound! We all just need to create them, seek them out, and nurture them in our family lives.