Stuck on Ceremony

Have you ever had a girlfriend who was getting married, and she became all about the wedding?  Her relationship with everyone, including the guy she’s going to marry, becomes about that day.  I have seen people’s personalities literally change as they begin to fixate on this ritual.  And it becomes about that ritual – not about the relationship that is beginning.   There is that crazy show, Bridezilla, and the unfortunate truth is that show is somewhat based on reality sometimes, right?

Or have you ever seen two people who have an unhealthy relationship, full of drama and immaturity, and they get engaged and they begin to do all of the wedding stuff – the same ritual things that people who have healthy relationships do, but in this case the events and rituals are empty and almost seem to be an insult to the institution of marriage?

And then there is the opposite – those weddings of people who have these amazing, God-honoring relationships.  And you go and watch this ceremony and you can almost breathe in the rightness of the moment.  Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a promise fulfilled is a tree of life.”  And occasionally you will be at a wedding and you know that something is being planted on that day that will last for generations.  That through that family, lives will be changed for eternity.  I am about to be Matron of Honor in a wedding like this for two of my sweet friends.  And it is just a breath of fresh air to be a part of this celebration.

I was at a funeral a few years ago of one of the greatest men I’ve ever known – John Weber.  He was this Godly humble precious man whose life was fully dedicated to Christ and to loving people.  And although his death was sudden and tragic and his sweet family was devastated, his funeral was, to this day, the most meaningful service that I’ve ever been a part of.  His life, and death, gave glory to Christ and you could almost sense, in that room, the angels rejoicing a life well lived.  Talk about a ritual giving honor to a relationship.  That ritual, that funeral, demonstrated for thousands of people the depth of his precious relationship with Christ.  And we who attended were all changed.

Ritual without relationship is empty.  Meaningless.  Dead.  Religion without relationship is empty.  Meaningless.  Dead.  But when the relationship is healthy and growing, the ritual can demonstrate the beauty and power of the relationship.  I think this is the challenge to Believers and churches.  To fiancees and spouses. To keep the relationship center and never let the ritual take precedence.

This morning a Worship leader in our area tweeted that “Yacht clubs used to be rescue societies” and he wondered if that is what is happening to our churches.  I thought it was a pretty powerful thought.  Rescue societies are connected to people in need – constantly alert and keeping watch, vigilant and purposeful.  They have a task and they will risk their own lives to accomplish that task and save the lives of others.   Yacht clubs, or country clubs, are anything but vigilant.  They are places of recreation and excess.  A yacht club or a country club is not an inherently evil thing – unless their purpose is to be a rescue society.  And a church is to be a rescue society.  A church is NEVER to be a country club.  We have a purpose, and to ignore that is absolutely evil and is an insult to the name of Christ.  It reminds me of Philippians 3:19 – “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things.”  We can never forget our purpose and make church about empty ritual.  We might as well be a Yacht club at that point.

Our society is stuck on ceremony.  They think that is the thing.  But here’s the truth – It is NOT EVER about the wedding – it is about the marriage.  Without a healthy marriage a wedding is an expensive joke.  It is about the relationship.

Jesus wants our hearts, not our rituals.  And here’s the wonderful thing – when you make it about the ritual – you’ll be miserable.  You’ll know, deep down, that it is empty.   And you’ll act like a big nasty spiritual bridezilla.  You’ll major on the minors and put ridiculous energy into the meaningless ritual.  You’ll judge and not have love in your heart.  You’ll have a whole lot of religion or ritual but no relationship to speak of.   But when it is about the relationship, it is life changing.  There is peace and joy and love and hope.  Your relationship produces fruit.  So when you feel that deep down – you know you are on the right track.  I am thankful for the relationship that God offered me through the death and resurrection of His Son.  If you don’t have the relationship, write me, I’d love to tell you about it.

It is all about the RELATIONSHIP.  Be wary of anything that doesn’t keep that center.

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