Every Day Bible

Ritual or Rote?

seagulls-008“Tradition” is a dirty word in some circles, but for others, it is practically sacred. Some eye anything repeated with suspicion while others fear the new and different. I recently heard a story that demonstrates the beauty of meaningful tradition.

Every Friday afternoon an older man would carry a bucket of shrimp to a particular spot on a pier in Florida. The shrimp weren’t for eating or fishing or for crabbing; they had a different purpose. As soon as he arrived in his spot, the sea gulls would take notice and swarm him. He fed the shrimp to the gulls, one at a time, until his bucket was empty. Then he returned home.

What was the purpose behind this strange ritual?

The man was Air Force Captain Eddie Rickenbacker. In World War II, he and 7 comrades were flying a B-17 across the Pacific to deliver a message to General MacArthur when the plane went down into the ocean. These eight men had to survive on a tiny life raft. When their emergency rations were exhausted, the men knew their situation was bleak.

After a period of prayer followed by a nap, Rickenbacker awoke to a sea gull landing on his head. He knew that if he could catch the gull, they could survive. He reacted quickly, caught the gull, and the men now had meat and fishing supplies that sustained them until help arrived.

When the war was over, Rickenbacker made a tradition of going to the beach to feed the gulls as his way of saying, “Thank you, God.”

Tradition, when infused with meaning, purpose, and feeling, is a beautiful thing. Tradition divorced from its meaning is an empty shell of a thing. If our worship is infused with meaning and passion, it can be a beautiful ritual. If it is mindlessly offered and repeated, it will become a worn-out rote.

Every Day Bible

WHO is in the details?

I don’t want to be legalistic here, but one thing I noticed from yesterday and the day before’s readings: God has a lot of specifics listed in his instructions for Jewish worship. He has listed who is supposed to clean up the sacrifices, organize the people, blow the trumpets….down to every last detail.

Side note: though these passages are very specific, they’re not really that complex. We often fall into a trap of thinking that the Old Law was so complicated and thus, difficult. The Old Law certainly was difficult — but that wasn’t due to its complexity. That was becasue attaining perfect righteousness through lawkeeping is inherently difficult in light of human nature! People throw around this stat a lot: there were 613 commandments in the Old Law! That’s so tough!

Have you read your drivers’ handbook? I started counting once, and as I could identify them in one chapter….just two or three pages in I’d already identified close to one hundred rules, yet I drive my car every day without worrying about whether or not I can remember each one. In fact, most days I knowingly break at least one! (Cough speed limit cough!) My point is — it’s not the complexity that made the law difficult; it was its nature.

Another example: God gave specifics about how his incense was to be made. If I counted right, there were four ingredients in two different quantities. If you’ve ever made chocolate chip cookies from scratch — you know that there are way more than 4 ingredients, and way more than two measuring spoons/cups dirty at the end of the process!

So let’s stop focusing on the complexity of the old law.

Why would God be so specific, though? Does he really just prefer a certain combination of spices? Does he think his fire and lightning look best against a certain gold backdrop?

Those are silly answers, of course. I think maybe he’s trying to teach a lesson about the value of worship. There’s something to be said for spontaneous outbursts of prayer and thanksgiving, but we shouldn’t neglect the beauty of spending time planning and thinking about how best to say ‘thank you.’ After all, don’t we say it’s the “thought that counts”?

It would behoove us to occasionally spend some time in preparation and planning for worship. Perhaps that could make an end of our age-old gripe, “I’m not getting enough out of it…”

Every Day Bible

God and His Glory

Side Note: I’m republishing this week’s bulletin article here. I wrote it after reflecting on what we’re currently reading in Exodus. Over and over, God’s mighty works are brought down to man for one purpose: to glorify God! That’s why the text said he hardened Pharaoh’s heart. That’s why he delivered the Israelites the way he did. His covenant making and covenant keeping was for one purpose: to reveal the glory of God. This article takes a brief look at how we reveal his glory. I hope you enjoy…

In our worship in song (and in the Psalms, too), we often use phrases like “glorify God” or “magnify the Lord.” What do we really mean when we use these phrases?

Am I capable of adding glory to God, the all-glorious one? What can I do as creation from dust to make bigger the name of Jehovah? Of course not! There’s nothing!

These phrases don’t mean that we add glory or honor or praise, but instead, we ascribe (write to his account) the glory that he already has. In other words, we give God his due and get out of the way! We make clear what anyone who knows anything about God should know: he is all-glorious and all-marvelous!

When Mary learned that she was to bring the world the Savior, she burst out into a song we call the Magnificat because of its opening line: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” (Luke 2:47).

How do we magnify and glorify God? We live joyful lives that proclaim his changing power everywhere we go. Our message is his message. Our service to others is really his service—and service to him. We become complete, fulfilled in his purpose. Like his creation in Genesis, as his new creation, we do what we’re made for, and he can say, “It is very good!” (See Matthew 5:16-20).

See, God designed us for that purpose: to let his glory be known everywhere. If we live for his purpose, we’ll never be found defeated. God will always work through us for good!