Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Lather Rinse Repeat

Deuteronomy 6: 6-7: These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed how much people repeat themselves in everyday life. I’m not talking about someone making a speech or giving a sermon repeating themselves (although that does happen), but rather about people who say the same thing in daily life.

If you give someone directions, it’s interesting how many people don’t write them down, but rather repeat them to try to fix them in their memory. I write a lot of things down because I frequently can’t remember what I had for breakfast. Servers in restaurants also repeat a customer’s order. Someone might say, “I’ll have the pate de fois gras and the lobster thermidor. The server immediately says, “The foie gras and the lobster, right?” I used to think servers didn’t hear the order the first time, but then I realized they were repeating what the customer said to make sure they heard the customer’s order correctly and also to probably fix the order in their memory.

I’ve written that, when we greet someone, the person being greeted often repeats what the first person said. I might say to a friend when I first see him, “Hey, Bob, how are you?” and Bob will say, “Hey, Dan, I’m good. How are you?” I think this happens because we don’t have time to think of a different greeting. It also serves as a way of establishing a bond or a commonality between two people. It’s a way of indicating that we liked the way we were greeted so much that we use it again. The other person is pleased that we used the same words and resolves to become our life-long friend and give us lots of money. Maybe.

We can find repetition in the universe as well. The sun, moon, earth, galaxies and stars move in regular paths. We have birthdays and celebrate holidays at predictable times. Repetition is also important in the Bible. The Jews staged festivals and holy days at regular intervals. Scholars tell us that Jesus did his teaching orally, and that the disciples heard the same messages over and over again, enabling them to remember what Jesus said so they could write it down later as the Gospels.

The Shema is an ancient Jewish prayer consisting of three paragraphs that are repeated in the morning and evening. The first paragraph is, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. Blessed is His name, whose glorious kingdom is forever and ever.” I believe we would be well-served to repeat this prayer ourselves as a reminder of the nature and power of God. Listen to these important words, all you believers: “The Lord our God is One God.” Amen.



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