Ritual, Respect, and the Light of “Instead”

After a hearty recommendation from a friend, I recently purchased a book: “To Dance with God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration”. The author discusses the importance of ritual in our family and worship lives through following the liturgical year, giving ideas for families to enter in without engaging in superficial piety. Due to the length of the title, my friend calls the book by the author’s first name: Gertrud. I think Gertrud would be okay with that.

So Gertrud arrived at my house, and I skimmed ahead to the section on Holy Week and Easter to get a sense if there was anything I might incorporate into our upcoming celebration. Gertrud is very holistic in her life, because instead of simply listing off craft projects and foods that could be enjoyed, she talks about an event and weaves in psychological, community, and personal implications.

Gertrud starts off talking about the procession of Palm Sunday with ideas of making bread dough chicks, gathering branches, displaying banners, and then so slyly delves into a discussion on feeling and passion in the corporate gathering. “The powerful liturgy of these holy days must tap also our deepest and most human place, the feelings of the human heart.” (157)  I remember loving to tear through the sanctuary as a kid: to be as loud as I wanted to be, especially without any adults to tell me to “quiet down, now” (as I do to my kids in the social hall – sigh). Part of that was the rambunctiousness that comes with being a kid, but I also think it’s something more.

Then Gertrud hit me, lovingly:

Indeed, in many cases it takes some educating and coaxing of priests and leaders of public worship not to stand at such a distance from the passions of what makes us human. That education and leadership, in turn, directed to the community assembled, can release a richness and a power, which can only be called a religious experience. Yes, we risk putting ourselves out. But to hold back or deny out of fear is to deny people a form to contain their human expression; it is to rob people of a religious life. (157)


In one of his talks Graham Cooke talked about the relationship between worship leaders and the “rest” of the gathering. He said something to the effect that we’re called not to judge how worship is going or meeting our needs, but rather to intercede for the worship leaders that they may create an atmosphere of deeper breakthrough of the Holy Spirit.

My natural inclination is to sit back and point out things that I perceive are wrong or lacking, and then feel justified in disengaging. What if that negative revelation has a place, but rather calling for deeper engagement? What if that message is for me so I know how better to intercede for our worship facilitators? What would it look like to lift up rather than tear down? And what if lifted up, the facilitators can better “release a richness and a power, which can only be called a religious experience”?

One of my dearest friends facilitates worship both on Sunday morning and at our bible study on Thursdays. This past Thursday the songs she chose reflected the themes and fingerprints of God that we’ve talked about lately at our Tuesday night “crafty” gatherings. I don’t know that she did it intentionally or subconsciously, but I did grin as each song was displayed on the projector. I pray for her, respect that she’s been gifted for this task, believe she is equipped, want to acknowledge her blessings and intercede in her places of lack. I see richness and power released into our Thursday morning experience: hosanna!

I’ve been convinced I don’t carry the same posture on Sunday mornings, and this post is an attempt at repentance.

I am sorry for the times I have judged or been critical – that was not, nor ever will be, my place.

I believe God is the God of “insteads”:  Isaiah proclaims God wants to give beauty instead of ashes, abundance instead of deprivation. Instead of judging, I want to respect and honor those who have been chosen to facilitate our worship times. Instead of having a spirit of introspection, I want to have a spirit of communal adoration. I want to honor my leaders’ giftings, respect their leadings, and “coax” them into a deeper engagement and passion through a pouring out of prayer. I want to see us in the light of “instead”.

Then perhaps I, and we, will enter in more deeply to what God is already doing:

“11 And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.

13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” – Isaiah 58

All glory laud and honor, to you Redeemer King! Hosanna, hosanna to the Son of David!

1 thought on “Ritual, Respect, and the Light of “Instead”

  1. Allison

    man- way to address some things that have been discussed at our house lately! i love you and your willingness not only to allow God to change your thought processes, but your willingness to openly share them with the rest of us. i also love that i can hear your voice speaking this to me as i read it in my head. you mean so much to me!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *