How does your congregation function on Sunday morning? If you’re like most congregations, you sing a few songs and have some prayers, maybe even communion, and definitely a sermon, and Sunday after Sunday it’s the same routine. In fact, I have seen people very upset when the worship service was changed in the slightest to accommodate some special activity on one particular Sunday.
Think about it. How would it be for you or those you know if you walked into your church service this Sunday morning to find out that something had been taken out that Sunday, or something had been added, or things got changed around. How would you feel? Would you be so frustrated with the unexpected change that you wouldn’t be able to focus?
In the previous congregation I worked with, I had the opportunity to preach often while they were in the interim period between preachers. I love to preach, but I don’t love to dress up. Because of this, I would often preach without a tie on. Or even in blue jeans with a button-up collared shirt. Mind you, this is a VERY rural town in north Arkansas – population 977. I noticed, however, that I was having a hard time connecting with the audience. So I decided to change. I started wearing slacks and ties on Sundays that I preached, and the attitude of the congregation went from putting up with me to really enjoying and soaking in the messages God presented through me. All I changed was my attire. All they needed was the ritual dress from their preacher.
I wonder what God thinks of our dependence on ritual. We all have some semblance of ritual. Even my preschool children function better with ritual, but is that how we are meant to live in the presence of God Most High?
In my study recently, I have seen that God is not a God of ritual. As you look at how God moves, He never does the same thing the same way. When Moses needed water for the Israelites, God told him to strike the rock, and water came forth. Later, they needed water again, and God told Moses to SPEAK to the rock, but Moses relied on what he had done before and struck it…water came forth, but Moses was cursed in the process – never to enter the promised land.
Fast forward to Jesus. As he healed people, he didn’t use the same method every time. Some he spoke to. Some he simply healed without a word. Some he touched with his hands, while others were healed with a prayer. He even spat on the ground and made mud and put it on one man’s eyes to heal him of his blindness. Did Jesus need the spit/mud to heal him? No! But, being God, Jesus was not about settling into ritual.
One of the things that happens when we settle into ritual is that we become self-centered. As we find the right church that has the right ritual, we are thinking only of ourselves. As we sit in our pew Sunday after Sunday, we become numb to the purpose of the ritual – to focus us on God – and think only about what we are to get out of the lesson, or what we are going to have for lunch later. Because of the ritualistic religion housing Christianity today, we have become consumers of Christianity, when God should be the only consumer.
If we were to shake things up a bit and live outside ritual, then we would have to rely on God more. We wouldn’t be able to plan for tomorrow because God would be the decider of our life – not us. This is not to say that our jobs would change. We live in a world full of ritual, but our personal and spiritual lives don’t have to be ritualistic.
God wants us to fully rely on HIM! That means every day. The right kind of ritual for a Christian should be that of waking up every morning and giving the day to God and seeking where He may lead you. Romans 6:13 talks about offering all of your physical being to God every day, and Romans 12:1-2 says we can’t understand God’s will for us unless we are worshipping Him through daily sacrifice of ourselves. Once we get ourselves and our rituals out of the way and step into God’s ritual of self-sacrifice, then we will be able to live the lives that God intends for each of us – the best life possible – eternal life.
May you be a person who wakes up each morning with the right kind of ritual and follows God into the unknown each day. May the life that God intends for you be evident in your walk each day. And may you and those around you be changed for the better because of this.
If there is anything I can do for you, or if there is anything I can pray for you, then please feel free to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the church at 245-1611. God bless you all!