World Communion Sunday, and Rituals

At church this morning, it was World Communion Sunday.  The pastor preached about how God reaches out to human beings through the ritual of communion.  I think that he was essentially saying the same sort of thing that I’ve heard from Armstrongites when they have sought to justify observance of the Sabbath and the annual holy days: that rituals give us something to hold on to.  Human beings are physical—-they see, taste, and touch—-and so God takes our humanity into consideration when he teaches us and reminds us of important truths through rituals. 

Some think that we should eventually graduate from rituals—-that we should become so spiritual that we no longer need the crutch of rituals to support our relationship with God.  Others believe that, at least in this life, we will never really graduate from our need for rituals, for we as human beings tend to forget what’s important in the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life, and so we need to come back to rituals to be reminded.  Personally, I think that this is an individual decision.  Not everyone needs to, say, keep the Day of Atonement to be reminded of the importance of atonement, for some people may recognize their dependance on God on an everyday basis.  Meanwhile, those who do choose to keep the Day of Atonement are not spiritually inferior just because they choose to set aside one day in the year to reflect on the atonement, and to remind themselves through fasting of its importance.

This year, I did not keep the Day of Atonement.  For one, I had the wrong day, and so the Day of Atonement passed me by without me even being aware of it!  But I just did not want to go without food and water for a day.  I get hungry, and going without water gives me headaches.  Do I think that atonement is important?  Well, I think that it’s a good idea for people—-or at least me—-to reflect on life and to take a personal inventory.  But I don’t see why I have to fast in order to celebrate the idea that God forgives me for my sins or gives me a fresh start, or walks beside me as a source of healing and strength even though I am far from perfect.

Regarding communion, I grew up in a denomination that kept it once a year, and some felt that this made it a special occasion, whereas holding it more frequently than that lessened its status as a special time.  I don’t worry about that anymore.  If anything, I question whether I should be taking communion in the first place, when I doubt elements of Christianity.  But that doesn’t bother me too much, either, for I’ve been taking communion for the past couple of years, and God hasn’t struck me dead yet.  (“But just wait until the afterlife, when God will punish you for partaking of communion in a state of unworthiness!”, some may tell me.)  I’d like to see communion as a time when God reaches out to me, a sinner.  But, to be honest, it’s just a ritual that I do.  Listening to a powerful sermon impacts me more spiritually than eating a piece of bread and drinking grape-juice—-though I do love the music that is played during communion.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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