Monday, December 28, 2009

Incarnation, Ritual, and Parenting

We have rightly emphasized over the years that the incarnation is God’s embrace of creation and the human body, and this means that part of salvation is our learning to embrace creation and our bodies in right ways. This has meant for many of us growing into deep thankfulness for food and sex, symbols and liturgy, as well as seeing human vocation and mercy ministry as part of God’s plan to renovate this world completely with His grace, turning this world into a glorified paradise. In other words, God does big things with our little bodies. God in His grace is using our tiny lives, our miniature motions and actions and words to bring about His glorious purposes in this world.

And this is why we have sought to restore a higher view of rituals and symbols. Central in this is the Lord’s Supper and the Word preached and read, but kneeling and raising hands, singing vigorously, musical instruments, clapping, hugging, and kissing would also be part of this. We do these things not only because they are commanded in Scripture, but because we know that God uses these things in ways that we do not fully understand. God uses little means toward his greater, unimaginable ends. God coming to us in the form of a baby was just the beginning of the revelation of God’s grace. If sharing bites of bread and sips of wine with one another in thankfulness is another way in which the Lord Jesus meets us through the power of the Spirit, what else might we expect the Spirit to be up to?

And let me push this in one particular direction for parents of young children. On the one hand this means that we must not underestimate all the rituals we have with our children in our homes. From conversations, to wrestling on the floor, to tone of voice, to telling jokes, to sharing food, to spanking, to hugging, to kissing, to blessing, and to teaching. If we are getting the lessons of the incarnation which we are seeking to obey here in our worship, they must also be evident in our lives together in our homes. All of those actions and words are used by the Spirit to either minister grace or not. And on the other hand the mysterious working of the Spirit is a reminder that parenting is by faith. We obey because we believe the promises of God not because we understand how God ministers His grace to the one year old in the high chair. But God was a one year old at one time, and this means He knows how to do it and we can trust Him.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:15)

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