Confession: I am often moved to tears when I watch God’s people in community.
Like when I went to the Greek Festival and saw the interlocked hands of old and young, heads thrown back laughing in a rhythmic circle of joy. Or when I broke Ramadan and witnessed my Muslim sisters gather, feed and pray, moving fluidly between packed picnic tables and the recesses of back rooms for prayer. Or when I participated in a Shabbat service and became mesmerized by the women’s synchronized hands, their beautiful Hebrew tongue, and the candles’ wafting smoke.
So accustomed are these communities to their words, prayers, and movements; yet to an outsider it is like a dance.
When I feel my eyes full watching these moments, I know my tears are for the dance.
A piece of the beauty in watching God’s people perform rituals is that it has been passed down through the generations; that these customs remind us who we are, and who we are takes my breath away.
Our faithful rituals force us to throw linear time out the window and instead become shrouded in all that is God. A timeless dance of harmony, unity, and intentionality replaces our chronos time with kairos time, God’s time.
Our rituals pull us together as a family. They remind us of our journey, of the journey of our people. They help us remember the story of our faith whose narrative stretches beyond the immediate into the past and beyond to our hope in the future.
As a Christian the dance of ritual points me to the dance within the Triune God, the perichoresis one God with three distinct persons moving in and through one another. It’s an internal relationship we Christians aim to model our own.
Lent and Advent are my two favorite “times” of the Christian year. Both are journeys whose intention it is to prepare. The latter, a journey of hope while we await the birth of the Christ child. The former, which started this week, can be a bit more somber, a reminder of Jesus’ suffering and death for the sins of the world as we anticipate the resurrection on Easter and Christ’s inevitable return to this earth.
Many use Lent as a time of commitment or recommitment to God. Some of us give up bad habits the prevent us from being whole; some of us add things to make our lives more full.
This year for Lent, I want to be more conscious of who I am and whose I am. Every day I want to be present to my God and to God’s precious people. I want to give thanks aloud for God’s good creation. I want to be mindful of my actions, my spending, my body, and my words.
I want to be immersed in kairos time shrouded in God. I want an outsider’s eyes to be full when they watch the unity, harmony, and intentionality of my community of faith as we struggle and find joy together in our Lenten journey. This year for Lent, I hope to be part of the dance.
The Rev. Tricia Dillon Thomas, is pastor to youth and families at Peace Presbyterian Church, 10902 Technology Terrace, Lakewood Ranch. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 941-706-1793.