Advent 2, Thursday, Year B

Inspired by Hosea 6:1-6

“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6 (NRSV)

How many congregations have suffered conflict over a proposed change in the style of worship? How many Christian denominations have refused to recognize a baptism performed in another church, because the amount of water used or the manner in which it was applied wasn’t sufficient?

Ritual is important to our worship life, but the ritual itself is not of utmost importance. Ritual serves to focus our attention and bring us closer to God. If ritual fails to do that, then it must be adjusted or abandoned. If ritual becomes an idol to us, then not only has it failed in its purpose, but it’s driven us further from God.

God doesn’t care if we use a contemporary worship setting or a traditional one. God cares that we worship. God doesn’t care if we sprinkle a few drops of water on a baby’s head over a small bowl in the sanctuary, or if we fully immerse ourselves in a river. God cares that we are baptized. And God cares that we understand the relationships that worship and baptism assume.

Ritual can play a vital role in bringing us closer to God, but it is no substitute for God.

Let us pray. Lord of all, you have revealed yourself to us in many and various ways. Help us to remain focused on you, that our rituals and traditions may continue to reflect our living faith. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.