A Ritual Reminder

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Over the years we have emphasized the importance of ritual. Rituals are significant in the Bible, and they ought to be significant to us. We have also emphasized the importance of worshiping God with our bodies and not just with our minds. We have sought to resist the temptation that many Reformed Christians deal with, which is the idea that God gave us bodies as carrying cases to get our brains to church.

And of course, it would be better to have your mind at church and your body elsewhere, than to have your body at church and your mind elsewhere. But fortunately, we don’t have to choose, and under ordinary circumstances, we must not choose. And so here is a brief reminder of the doctrinal reasons for some of the very physical things we do in our worship of God.

We sing throughout the service, which should be strenuous, we kneel in confession, we eat bread and drink wine, and we raise our hands in the Gloria Patri. We worship God physically for three reasons.

First, we believe that Scripture requires this kind of thing of us. We are not in charge of inventing a worship service that we think God might like. He wrote a book; He tells us. Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

Second, we worship God this way in order to lean against the perennial temptation of Gnosticism—the idea that some divine spark inside is all that is necessary, and that the material body is irrelevant. We want to be reminded every week that God has a claim on your lungs, your knees, your hands, and your mouth and throat.

And last, we believe that worship is a conversation—a dialogue—between God and His people. It is therefore important that you not be passive. You have a role to play that goes far beyond that of simply listening to a lecture. We gather to hear the Word of God, but we also gather so that God can hear from us, observing us as we approach Him.

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Tony Allen Dinkins
Tony Allen Dinkins
5 years ago

I agree that we need some way to employ our bodies in worship. To me it is too easy to allow our relationship to God to become nothing more than an exercise of our brains, though that is extremely important, I have always yearned for more. In some ways I envy the liturgical church because it seems that it has more of a hands on faith. Granted,anything material can lead to idolatry but we live our lives in a material body that God made. Apart from those that you mention in your article, are there other biblically acceptable physical means… Read more »

kyriosity
kyriosity
5 years ago

We have 52 feast days a year. Ancient Israel ain’t got nuthin’ on us. ????

Another physical action we do is standing. As my knees have gotten worse, I’ve had to give up kneeling altogether, and I don’t stand for all of the standing parts, but I am deliberate about being on my feet—standing at attention, as it were—for the Scripture reading. I know we have well-considered reasons for the other standing portions of the service, but that seems like the most important one.

Katecho
Katecho
5 years ago

Tony Allen Dinkins wrote: In some ways I envy the liturgical church because it seems that it has more of a hands on faith. Every church is liturgical. The liturgy may be thin, or heavy, but there is one. Unfortunately, even a heavy liturgy doesn’t guarantee congregational involvement. It can become a mere spectator sport. For example, Roman Catholicism is heavy on liturgy, but there were periods when the priests would engage in their “hoc est corpus” while the lay people didn’t even get to eat the Supper because they couldn’t be trusted with the transubstantiated elements. The only “body”… Read more »

MeMe
5 years ago

Amen to this! I’m reminded that all the “bad” things we do, smoking, drinking, cursing, spending too much money, whatever, are all rituals. They are repetitive scripts, ritualistic routines we fall into. That’s what tends to plant them firmly in our brains. So if you genuinely want positive change, you need to change to positive rituals which will also get planted firmly in our brains.