Almost 2 months into reading the Bible as part of the Bible in a Year challenge that the diocese of Edmonton has taken on for its centennial year. The dear one and I have finished 4 books of the Hebrew Testament, a third of the psalms and are into our third gospel. We are sticking with it, which in and of itself is a good thing.
How many of you have ever read all of Leviticus and Numbers? Like really read them, not just gone looking for something in particular. There are a lot of formulas for worship, sacrifice, daily living, what can or can’t be eaten, cleanness and uncleanness and on and on and on.
The phrase that stuck out for me was ‘A pleasing odour for the Lord‘. It sounds really nice doesn’t it. Then I got thinking about all those animals being sacrificed and all the blood being spattered on the altar and on the priests and all the incense and all the flour being burnt up and I wondered what it must have smelled like. Not all that pleasant is what I came up with.. So that was a pleasing odour to the Lord? How does that relate to how I live as a Christian today? I am not sure at this moment it does, except I now know more about sacrificial practice then I ever thought I would want to know.
I am going to take back what I just wrote, in fact I do think has something to do with how I live as a Christian. It has to do with ritual, worship, relationships with my fellow human beings and ultimately with my relationship with God.
When my son was a little boy he had the most amazing bedtime ritual. It was between him, Pirate Bear (his favourite teddy) and either his father or me. This is how it would go:
Me: Good night
Son: Good night
Me: Good night
Pirate Bear (with son’s voice): Good night
Me: Don’t let the bedbugs
Me: and if they do
Son: beat them
Me: till they’re
Son: black and blue. (followed by some serious giggling at this point)
Me: Mahoo (which is what we said in our family when blowing a kiss at the other person)
Pirate Bear: Mahoo
You have to understand that we did this every night from the time he was 3 years old, when he invented the ritual, until he was 8 0r 9. It was such a serious ritual that if a word was missed or one of us tried to rush it, we had to start all over from the beginning. It was also such a serious ritual that we had to teach it to his babysitters. The only reason that we both didn’t have to do it every night was the other parent was doing a much simplified ritual with our daughters.
Ritual is important. It is important to children and it is important to adults. The dear one and I have a morning ritual with our coffee, I bring him his coffee, he smiles and we share a tender moment. The morning doesn’t feel right if we don’t do this ritual.
On Sundays we do ritual, which we call worship. We sing hymns, we pray together, we break bread and share wine, we listen to God’s word – all ritual and mostly done the same way each week. It is important . It is how we acknowledge God’s presence in the midst of us. It is how we remember the stories of Jesus. It is how we strengthen ourselves for the upcoming week. It is how we reconnect with others on their journey of faith. It is what the Israelites were doing when they made all those sacrifices to God – they were doing ritual. They were and we are making a pleasing odour to the Lord.