The Power of Ritual

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Gen. 49:29-50:141 Cor. 11:17-34Mark 8:1-10

Rituals fill our readings this morning.

In our Epistle reading, Paul discusses the Lord’s Supper, speaking of abuses, factions, and the importance of examining your motives as one comes to eat the body and blood.

In our Gospel reading, Mark tells of the feeding of four thousand.

But this morning I want to spend a little time with our Old Testament passage.  In Genesis 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.

Connecting this to the other two passages today, all involve the ritual of coming together.  Here it is not for miraculous food or heavenly togetherness, 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.  Ritual 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.

What rituals do you have in your daily life?  Family?

Need one?  See you at church Sunday.  We have lots and can help you connect with the mystery of faith and with God.

-Matt

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