I grew up in a time when the church was still in the midst of a pendulum swing towards intellectualism and reason. Sacraments (as I now know them) and symbols in the church were talked about almost as if they were magic. Furthermore, my family life was mostly devoid of experiences that incited my senses to experience God in mystical physical ways. Today, I long for those kind of tangible, repeatable experiences that captivate my senses in a procession towards truths and realities about God that my mere mind cannot fully translate.
Our culture is increasingly image-based and experience-focused. No longer can someone be “convinced” God is a good Father. They must experience it. If we were to glean from the past, the foundational symbolic activities that so defined their worship, I believe the result would be a harvest of folks who are waiting for the right symbol to unlock their hearts. Following Christ, after all, is primary a participatory endeavor.
True, a renewal of the mind (Romans 12) is often the driver towards Christ-activity; however, our minds are not fully renewed until our actions testify to it. Even from a purely secular educational standpoint, these kinds of symbolic participatory activities are clearly more effective then directly teaching as a constant, poignant reminder of the transcendent values they represent.