The importance of Rituals

I am presently reading the book of Exodus and the accounts of the Passover and the Exodus. It is quite facinating to read of the institution of the Seder meal and the command to each year take the time to remember the Passover and the Exodus as the demonstration of the saving arm of God. The powerful conection the Exodus has to the institution of the Lord’s Supper at the Passover meal by Jesus continues to astound my mind and heart. The plan of God is awesome!

This morning I read an interesting piece of commentary on the importance of ritual and how it brings the history of the scripture into a reality for us and how that ritual makes the history of scripture more than just a “fairy tale”. RABBI MARC GELLMAN of Newsweek writes in a commentary on the new film ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’:

In great sacred stories, rituals are often the arms used by the story to draw us in. The ancient story of Jesus’ resurrection is not merely remembered but personally consumed in the Eucharist feast. The ancient story of the Exodus is personally consumed in the ritual of the Seder meal. In these ritual meals, the story enters us and we enter the other world where the story is born. Because fairy tales do not generate rituals, their world always remains at arm’s length away. There is no ritual that helps us enter Wonderland or Oz, but when the priest says that the wafer is the body of Christ; when the Passover story quoting Exodus 13:8 commands Jews of every age to believe that they personally were brought out of Egypt, these are not metaphors. They are sudden intrusions of the world of the holy into our world and our souls.

Makes perfect sense to me! It is making me appreciate the great gifts we have in the church, and the importance of them for my own spiritual life and health. God knows what he is doing in giving them to us!

One Down, 65 To Go

On my handheld Palm Pilot there is a little program that figures out a reading schedule of the Bible according to whatever parameters you give it. It sat there and sat there unused for two years… Until this January when I decided that it was HIGH time for me to systematically and deliberately read through the scriptures (THE WORD OF GOD). I am sure that at one point or another I have read the whole scripture, but not in one sweep.

So, anyway, every morning before anyone else gets up, I get my coffee and see what I get to read for the day. So far it has been a great experience and I hope that perhaps I can be an inspiration for you. “If Pastor BJORNSTAD can do it, so can I!” It was the other day that I finally finished Genesis. It was quite fun! The bible on my Palm Pilot has a little running commentary beside the text that kind of explains things and highlights important points that might otherwise go unnoticed.

THE MOST INTERESTING THING I HAD TOTALLY FORGOTTEN ABOUT:
The story of how Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah, disguised herself as a prostitute and became pregnant by Judah. You can read in chapter 38 how she did it and the tricks she pulls on Judah and the shame that he brings upon himself. The Bible deals with sin strait out!

THE FUNNIEST THING I READ:

Gen. 42:1    When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” 2 He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”

Bunch of lazy sons! I can just hear Jacob, old and feeble himself, but fit enough to get super frustrated with his sons as they mope around as everyone starves! “Why do you just keep looking at each other?”

“THE COMING AWAY” FEELING: AMAZING stuff this Genesis is. The sweep and drama of it all, the details and promise… Way better than an afternoon soap opera. A truly worthy foundation for our faith.

Swan Song for Marriage?

Reading in the NY Times today the article concerning the fact that more women are living without a husband than with for the first time in American history (except perhaps wartime or during the time of slavery.) Here is one quote:

“This is yet another of the inexorable signs that there is no going back to a world where we can assume that marriage is the main institution that organizes people’s lives,” said Prof. Stephanie Coontz, director of public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit research group. “Most of these women will marry, or have married. But on average, Americans now spend half their adult lives outside marriage.”

Critical questions for us as Christians: Will marriage remain one of those essential keys of the Godly life for us?

For me, I am thnking about how I should be teaching marriage to the Sunday School kids and especially Confirmation kids… How can I help you as parents and grandparents teach your children the beautiful gift of marriage and what it means for us as Christians (and all of humanity – whether the society recognizes it or not!) And what DOES it mean, anyway? We need to clarify that for ourselves!

I just loved this one quote from a woman:

Carol Crenshaw, 57, of Roswell, Ga., was divorced in 2005 after 33 years and says she is in no hurry to marry again.

“I’m in a place in my life where I’m comfortable,” said Ms. Crenshaw, who has two grown sons. “I can do what I want, when I want, with whom I want. I was a wife and a mother. I don’t feel like I need to do that again.”

Such a typical American attitude for this 21st century! Lord, come and save us quickly from ourselves!

God bless your marriage today!

Inspired by the Greatness of it ALL!

The beginning of the new year is always a bit of a “lull” for the church as a whole and its pastor. For me it is always a great time to “retrench” and clear off the desk and file cabinets, etc. This year I decided to tackle my library as well! Even before I came to Peace, I had categorized and labeled my whole library. However, over the years whenever I had gotten a new book, I threw it in the “new and un-catalogued” pile. It has grown over the years and it was time to deal with it all – and to go one step further with the cataloging by entering my books into a special library program on my computer. A great library is only as good as one’s ability to access it and search its contents…

Anyway, to make a long story short, going through each and every book in my library has been a long and tedious, but thoroughly exciting, endeavor! The thought that continually came to me as each book came off the shelf and presented itself to me was: “Wow! I forgot I had this! Wow, I haven’t thought of THIS particular subject or topic or problem for SO LONG!… THIS would have been so helpful to have pulled out when….”

I guess it has humbled me in a way… reminded me how VERY LITTLE I actually know. But further it has truly inspired me to be dedicated to the noble pursuit of wisdom and ALL the gifts of God for us.

One rather incredible side effect of this whole exercise is the ability to share what is IN my library with anyone! You can see my entire collection at this link: (high speed internet connection is pretty necessary!)
Unfortunately the library is not easily searched like on my desktop, but you might find something that would interest you just by browsing. I would certainly love to be able to lend you whatever is in my library! Just let me know!

My final thought on the library bit is how it “defines” who I am. There were several times when I probably should have thrown something away but I kept it. I have several books on the history of the Lutheran Church in Canada. When are those books ever going to be useful for me? Probably never, but yet the Canadian Lutheran Church is part of me. I put those books up very carefully and thankful to God for the part the Lutheran Church-Canada played in my life!

What a pleasure my library is!