Keeping It In the Family
We celebrated Passover (Pesach) with our extended family last night. I was struck throughout our 4 hour dinner (and we left early) by the participation and connectional involvement of everyone. As we shared a meal and conversed our way through the Haggadah, a modernized re-telling of the Passover story of the Israelites deliverance from slavery in Egypt, I was struck by the conversations in which I participated covering immigration, family fun, theology, philosophy, the historical Jesus, elementary school, the view of same-sex marriage in Judaism and Christianity, and many jokes. As the evening went on the children moved from being distracted by toys in the other room to the center of attention as they re-enacted the Exodus story in a skit for everyone. My girls loved it (you can see them dancing their way through the parted Sea of Reeds). The evening was powerful, reminding me of the uniqueness of the meal - it's not just about eating, it's not just a religious service or traditional ritual, but a group experience or re-experience of a foundational story that makes meaning for those gathered, and gives meaning to our lives today.
I'm reading a book on rituals which states that we're living in a time of constant and chronic change. Some who haven't experienced much of it in their lives look at it that way, youngerish X-ers, Millenials, etc. would simply call it "normal." In the midst of all this change and transition we are losing our way. Some would say we've lost our moral compass. I'd say - in following the line of thought of the book - that we're losing our roots, not traditions in a comforting smooth-over stuff way, but those that root us in the past - in our story - so that we can more confidently move into the future emerging all around us. In our Christian tradition, the community I'm a part of, most folks look to me as the clergy to do it all: tell and re-tell the story, offer the prayers, do the justice work, walk folks through things, teach the common faith that binds us together. I'm not against it, but why just me? Last night it was all in the family, we told our children and they retold us the story. We worked our way through the story, claiming it for our lives today, in conversation, poignant question-asking, goofy folks songs, and prayers. How come we don't do that more often - or even at all - in the Christian tradition? We moved from following Jesus who said that we don't need a building to worship God, but rather to do so in word, thought and action, to a semi-sociological group that is worried about who our pastors/clergy leaders are and what they're doing (I'm not just talking about Jeremiah Wright). Often I experience folks who judge others "faith" or "righteousness" based upon the church they attend, the books they read, or the pastor they listen too. Aren't we called to follow a man from Nazareth who invited himself to dinner in order to spark good conversation, create dialogue, birth community and facilitate a new way of living? We seem to have little congruence in our lives between what we live on Sunday morning and our Monday-Saturday lives. When did we move from being about faith in all we do, in particular in our families (however we define them) to regulating faith to an hour (or more) on Sunday mornings?