29 October 2010

Ancient Paths

Recently I noticed a signed emblazoned on the glass window of Starbucks, Take Comfort in Rituals. The semi-obvious suggestion was that I should stop in and buy a cup on a regular basis. This economically-motivated slogan touched on a universal feature of human experience, viz. there is something reassuring about a regular routine. When everything else seems to be in flux, our daily habits and familiar traditions provide stability as well as reassurance that there is a “normal” to our experience. Those rituals link us with a past, perhaps even ancient, and give us hope for familiarity in an unknown future. Nowhere is this more important than in the Christian life. Following well-worn, ancient paths of the faith in faith we may enjoy a fullness of contentment and depths of pleasure.

Paul commends the Corinthians because they maintain the traditions as delivered (1Cor 11:2). These traditions are divinely-inspired, apostolic teachings and practices designed to build faith, strengthen character and provide stability in a dark and dangerous world. We are pilgrims and strangers making our way to the celestial city, and God knows we need such rituals. Not only do they offer reassurance for “resident aliens” but the Holy Spirit has promised to attend them with His presence and to accompany them with His blessing. They are, as our forefathers called them, means of grace, i.e. divinely-designated means through which God conveys His grace. So the early church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42). The Thessalonians stood firm and held to the traditions taught them (2Ths 2:15). Timothy was to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching (1Ti 4:13). Through these means God prepares a table for us even amidst our enemies (Ps 23:5). So Take Comfort in Rituals – the rituals of Christ – and expect a glorious future!