Faith musings from the seat of a forklift.
I have been involved in freight in one capacity or another for quite some time. How long? Truthfully, I don’t rightly know. My initial forklift training was done while stationed aboard a US Navy oiler/cargo ship. I also spent a season off-loading pallets and stocking shelves for a retailer shortly after I got out of the Navy. Then I spent two years in construction supply, and now I have been with my current employer nearly fifteen years.
During all those years, one thing has been constant. There is a way things are done. Oddly, there are times when it would that the reason for it is that it is how it’s done. Sometimes it would seem like things were done simply because nobody does it any other way. Truthfully, sometimes there is just no other way to do a job. Indeed, it took me some time before I understood why we loaded trailers the way we load them. Interestingly, it isn’t just because it’s the way it’s done. There is actually purpose to why they are loaded a certain way.
Religion is very much the same way. There are rituals and teachings that have become accepted as just being what they are. You are not allowed to question it. You have to do it and believe. It could be something as nonsensical as believing that if you touch a pig, even after being in paradise for a thousand years, you will be automatically consigned to Hell. Conversely it could be something as practical as “he who does not work, same such should not eat”. Now, I don’t know about you, but any religion that gives a pig the power to send a person to Hell is a religion to avoid.
In the Christian church, and the Lutheran church in particular, we have our rituals too. Some of them make sense. Some of them don’t, especially in light of what the Bible says. Sometimes, rather sadly, we can get so caught up in rituals that we lose sight of the purpose of the ritual. Sometimes we not only lose sight of the purpose of the ritual, we even deny that such rituals exist, and that can even be a ritual.
What do I mean? As a former Baptist, there were certain things that were ritually believed. One of these was that we can choose salvation. The idea was that there is an “isle of righteous” within each of us that enables us to choose to be saved. It is a lovely sentiment. However, it is also in direct violation of scripture. In John 15:5 we read “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” In context, Jesus is speaking of himself, but he makes it clear that without him, the disciples would be powerless. This point becomes more clear in John 15:16, where Jesus says “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” Yes, I know that the “name it and claim it” types abuse this verse to no end. However, note that Jesus said “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you”. Now then, how can we think that we can “choose salvation”, or how they phrase it now, when Christ Jesus clearly said this wasn’t possible? We can’t. Yet, some churches have a ritual prayer for salvation. Yes, it’s a ritual.
Baptism, which I’ve discussed in the past, is also a ritual. However, this one is at least halfway Biblical. I don’t know of any church that does not have some form of practice regarding baptism. During my time in the Baptist church, I often heard it said that “baptism is an outward sign of an inward change”, or “baptism is a requirement to following Christ”, or “Christ commanded that we all be baptized”. First, no, baptism is not an outward sign of an inward change, and there is nothing in the Bible that even remotely signifies this. Second, no, baptism is not absolutely required, the thief on the cross was assured paradise, and it is highly likely that he was never baptized. Third, Christ Jesus gave the command to “make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. He never said to only baptize believers. Additionally, to claim that baptism is an “outward sign of an inward change” is to deny 1 Peter 3:21 where it reads “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you”. Note that Peter started with discussing how Noah and his family were saved through the waters of the flood and then states that baptism save us. However, many modern churches deny this plainly stated scripture passage, creating their own ritual for baptism, denying the very purpose of it. Yep, another ritual.
The last one that I want to discuss is the Lord’s Supper. This is a common ritual in the Christian church. However, it is also commonly misunderstood. During my time in the Baptist church, I was taught that it was a memorial meal, based upon 1 Corinthians 11:26. Yet, though it is true we proclaim his death until his return, unless we also consider carefully Matthew 26:26~29, we do not have the full picture of what the Lord’s Supper means. In those verse from Matthew, Christ Jesus took the bread and broke it, and said “Take, eat; this is my body.” Likewise, regarding the cup, he said “this is my blood”, say that it is for the forgiveness of sins. We in the Lutheran church take this very seriously. We don’t try to minimize the words of Jesus, reducing it to mere symbolism. Jesus did not say it signified his body and blood. Nor did he say that they become his body and blood. He declared that it was his body and blood. Since Christ Jesus said it, we must accept it as it is written. However, many modern churches deny those words of Christ. Yep. Yet another ritual.
What’s the point? Simple. Many modern church do have rituals. Some church are quite open and honest about the ritual and what it means. Others are secretive, even denying that they have any rituals. Sadly, some churches have well established rituals in which they even deny the words of Christ Jesus, all in favor of their rituals and traditions. To them, the words of Jesus to the Pharisees seem true. Jesu was quite critical of their traditions. A cursory reading of Matthew 23 shows just how critical Jesus was of the Pharisees and their traditions, even noting that they have neglected the weightier matters of the law, which is the word of God. Modern churches who neglect the Bible in favor of rituals that are non-Biblical, or anti-Biblical, and deny the clear teachings of scripture are no different.
During the last fifteen years, I have learned to question some loading practices. There are some things that just should not be done. Doesn’t matter if it’s been done that way for years, it is still wrong. If it is wrong, it must be stopped and corrected. Correcting things can lead to lower claims and higher revenue (just being practical). Likewise, rituals in the church should periodically be questioned, and always in light of scripture. Just because a church does something in a certain way doesn’t make it right. No church is perfect, but no church should deny the plain words of the Bible either.
What about the picture at the top? Why isn’t there one? Sometimes I can’t find anything and I have to post without an image. It’s just what I do.