I've said for a long time that people are shaped by ritual, by liturgy. We yearn for the predictability of routine. Consider, for example, how you brush your teeth. I'd be willing to bet that most of us do that in exactly the same way every single day, and that some of us could probably brush our teeth blindfolded without any problem.
We are creatures of habit, and while ritual is infused into much of our existence, it may be most obviously apparent in our religious life. The rituals of our daily life, and of our faith life, shape who we are and who we are becoming.
So I was surprised yesterday morning, after having been on vacation and away for only one Sunday, that I felt like I didn't quite have my feet under me as I was helping to lead the liturgy (our worship rituals).
Then I remembered that I've felt this way before after having been gone. It seems like it doesn't take much to change something deep within me, even when I didn't feel different and didn't realize that I'd changed (only so slightly, though ... it was just vacation).
Sometimes, for our faith to grow, it's good to be jolted (in more significant ways than vacation) out of our routine and into a deeper life of faith ... which is part of the reason individuals and communities take part in events like mission trips and silent retreats and youth gatherings.
Wednesday, the ELCA (my denomination) youth gathering will begin. This event, over 30,000 youth and caring adults gathering together in one city, can be a significant 'jolt' from ordinary routine. Plus, because it's a faith-event, it may well help many young (and older) people experience the patterns and rituals of their own faith community differently. At least, that's the hope I approach the youth gathering with.
The question, and struggle, will be to translate the faith experience of the youth gathering into daily life in some kind of meaningful way that can also be transformative for life in community back home.