Softly and Tendonly Jacob is Wrestling (or, Thinking about Children and Rituals)

Today’s reading in The Bible in One Year was Jacob wrestling with God. It’s a well-known story where Jacob meets the stranger the day before he meets his brother for the first time since robbing him and doing a runner.

Today as I read, the last bit of the story stood out to me. In the story, the unknown combatant (whom Jacob names as God) has to injure Jacob’s hip in order to beat him. The author comments, ‘Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon’ (Genesis 32:32, NIV). I wonder if this had been a teaching moment among families as they sat down to dinner. All the parts of whatever animal would be served, but noticeably the tendon left out. The children ask ‘Why?’ and the parents retell the story of Jacob and wrestling with God.

I think this stood out today because we had our Covenant Service. This is really one of the high, holy moments of the Methodist Church year and it offers us the opportunity to teach children and newcomers why we do this year after year. Unfortunately, the children today weren’t present, as it was decided that they wouldn’t be able  to sit through this, so they missed out. The Covenant Service isn’t our most flashy of services, even though I and many others find it meaningful. But, what about the opportunity to tell them why we do this? Why do we gather together every year to repeat these words? Why might we ask them to sit through rather than do something else?

Maybe it won’t make it less ‘boring’ for them, but it will children that something very important is going on. Maybe we sell them short by assuming what they can and can’t make it through. Rituals allow time and place for explanation of greater things, not simply rules that are to be followed. By participating with us, people will gain more of the ritual’s meaning rather than learning if something is boring then no matter how important it is then its OK to skip out.

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2 thoughts on “Softly and Tendonly Jacob is Wrestling (or, Thinking about Children and Rituals)

  1. I’ve always been a ‘stay the course’ with this service as I think it’s so beautiful on it’s own. But, it has crossed my mind to rethink its accessibility. I would love to see what you come up with over the summer! It would be great to see something new.

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