I've spent the earlier part of this week gearing up for this coming Sunday, when we will have our traditional Ingathering and Water Ceremony service at 4 p.m. and then welcome a whole lot of guests at 5 p.m. for our groundbreaking celebration and salmon feed.
Today I had set the task for myself of drafting the homilies for both services. Fortunately, they're both very short, almost not even worth of being called homilies because they are so brief. But that makes them trickier. How do you compress all the meaning and the power of a ceremony in which we pool the essence of our lives in a common cup into three minutes or less? You don't. You hope that those who hear the words and pour the water will do the work with what you offer and you try to set the scene so that they can do that in their own ways, create their own goosebumps, find their own spiritual meaning.
And how, for heaven's sake, do you tell a mixed groups of visitors, guests, and regulars how important it is that we have our own home here? It's vital that I do that right! And I have two minutes to do it in, because of the format of the service! Again, it will have to be the task of those present to take what I say, find their own place in it, and turn it into a spiritual experience.
That's what religious ritual is all about, anyhow, setting a scene, invoking the spirit, doing the best we can with the words, the music, the symbols, and letting each person there make his/her own meaning out of it. Sometimes it happens perfectly, sometimes it happens poorly, but it is not just the leader who makes it happen; it's all of us, each creating from the raw material an experience which will stay with us.