Sharp About Your Prayers

the challenges, absurdities, and joys of an urban faith

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Why We Do What We Do

September 22nd, 2017 · No Comments · Faith and the City

Over the past two days, our Jewish brothers and sisters have been celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the arrival of a New Year. In addition to reading Scriptural texts that recall the goodness of creation and offering prayers for God’s blessing in the year to come, Rosh Hashanah is the occasion when the shofar (a ram’s horn) is sounded during worship services.

My friend Rabbi Peter Rubenstein has a wonderful short video that explains the meaning of theshofar and the rich symbolism it contains.


This video reminds me that we Christians must share the history of our rituals, too. We must explain, in creative and relevant ways, the meaning of our most basic religious practices, the things that we do over and over again in worship, to our children, to our guests and to each other.

You may remember a few years ago when a producer from the reality television show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” called to see if we would permit the Kardashian sisters to come to worship and be filmed lighting a candle. We asked the woman on the phone: “Why do they want to light a candle?” The producer responded, “It doesn’t matter.” That’s when we graciously ended the conversation.

Because it DOES matter! It matters a lot.

Human beings crave ritual. We need ritual to mark our passage through life and to focus our attention on the sacred aspects of all that we do.

Increasingly, though, people bypass religious communities to craft their own ceremonies. These homemade rituals may look good. Dim lights. Sober expressions. Faces aglow. But without a story, without a tradition, lighting a candle is an empty act. It has no hope of orienting a person toward the good, the sacred… toward God. Without the grounding of a community or a tradition, rituals quickly become “all about me.”

One of the most common rituals we celebrate at FAPC is the singing of the Doxology. It is a powerful moment in the service when we rise to our feet (as we are able) to sing praise to God. This Sunday, we are going to talk about the roots of singing the doxology.

We are going to consider why, in a world beset by earthquakes and hurricanes and countless other catastrophes, we ought to have praise on our lips. Hint #1: It is not “all about me.” Hint #2: It has something to do with the shofar! Let’s talk about how the Doxology focuses us, in the face of immense and troubling calamities, on the work we have to do.

See you in worship,
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