Ritual actions and objects have power because of the symbolism and imagery we place upon them. As we perform rituals we are making physical something that may otherwise be intangible; we bring into existence a relational connection, facilitate a change in status, or enact a desired ideal.
This morning during the Eucharist (or ‘communion’, or ‘breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup’) the elements/symbols were distributed by a 1o year old boy. This wasn’t planned, but happened in the moment, as an extra pair of hands was needed.
In the ritual space (the time in which the ritual was performed) this action said something about the community. It had enacted and announced that there is no special mediator, no barrier, between God and us. God’s grace and forgiveness cannot be held back and dished out by an appointed person, a priest or an elected elder. These people have value elsewhere and for other tasks, but when it comes to approaching God the Father we have access directly through one man only, God the Son, Jesus, made possible by the transforming work of God the Spirit.
The 10 year old boy distributing the elements, in action, has shown symbolically that the community does, or should, reject the notion of a hierarchical power in the access to the divine, that we truly are a priesthood of all believers, and that we should be humble in our community structures, looking to God first.
What is enacted if the Eucharist is abused: if it is performed only by the elect few who have been given power, or even worse, if people are barred from celebrating? Somehow, week-in and week-out, these enacted ideals would become a part of how the the world, and the community we are part of, is perceived. God and his forgiveness become commodities that can be traded and distributed by those who have access and power. Authority is a powerful tool in a community; authority, as history attests, can easily corrupt.
When you next celebrate the eucharist think about what it is saying about you, the community, and about the nature of God.
We become the rituals we chose to engage in.