Monday, November 26, 2012

Going Through the Motions

Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 12.1.12

Have you ever gotten home from work but you don’t remember driving there? You’re on auto-pilot. It happens whenever we’ve done something so many times that our brain doesn’t really have to engage in what we’re doing to make it happen. It’s almost like our muscles just take over: tying our shoes, playing a musical instrument, typing.

You can probably think of lots of things that have become like that for you. You’ve seen, or maybe you are one of those folks who can knit or crochet so well that you don’t need to see what you’re doing. I used to wear contact lenses and sometimes I’d wake up in the night and not be able to remember if I’d taken my contacts off or not. Of course it was easy to find out – if I could see more than a foot away, then I needed to get up and take them out.

Anyway, being on auto-pilot is not necessarily a bad thing. Imagine if you had to think about every step you took, everywhere we walked? There was a time when most of us had to think of how to form every letter and how to spell every word when we wrote things down. When you sign something now, our hands pretty much knows what to do without our help.

Being on auto-pilot isn’t necessarily a good thing either, though – some folks, who’ve been married a really long time can say “I love you” without really thinking about it. Sometimes they might be talking to someone besides their spouse on the phone and they’ll end the conversation with “I love you” but the person on the phone is a business associate instead of their spouse. That can be pretty awkward.

Sometimes our worship can become so automatic that our brain disengages from it and we find ourselves just going through the motions. We go to church, stand up, sit down and kneel at all the right times, but we’re not actually involved in the worship service beyond just being a warm body sitting in the pew. We’re just there because it’s become a habit – just another thing we do in our lives.

Going through the motions can be particularly tragic when we’re talking about some of the really meaningful ceremonies of our worship service – baptism, foot-washing, and communion.

I know, I can hear you, “Hey, how can baptism become routine, I only do that once.” And you’re right, but sometimes our on-going experience of having been baptized can become stale. Remember how the church at Ephesus was described in Revelation?
“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:  And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.  Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Revelation 2:2-4
See? They were doing all the right things, but they were just going through the motions. The instructions for resolving that problem come in verse 5: 
“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” Revelation 2:5
Jesus also left us with a reminder of baptism to keep the experience more fixed in our minds. Just before the Last Supper, when He gathered with all 12 of the disciples in the upper room.
“Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?" John 13:3-12
Footwashing or the Ordinance of Humility as our church calls it, is a reminder that we fall daily into sin and that Jesus and His sacrifice are our only hope for salvation.
Footwashing is an important time within our church families to remind us of our baptism experience.

On that same evening, in that same upper room, Jesus also gave us Communion.
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” Matthew 26:26-29
Isn’t that an amazing promise – “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” We will be with Him in the kingdom!

Let’s not let Baptism, The Ordinance of Humility and the Communion Service become one more case of auto-pilot. Stay focused!

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