Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Consider Routine

What happens in the Church, and how it happens, inevitably makes its way out into culture in general. Culture is religion externalized and made explicit. Culture comes from "cult", ie. "Who & how a people worship." A confused & chaotic church (especially on Sunday morning in the Lord's presence) will produce a confused and chaotic society, because we are the salt and light. Let's (re)Consider Routine.


"routine"--a prescribed, detailed course of action to be followed regularly; a standard procedure. A set of customary and often mechanically performed procedures or activities. See synonyms at method.

Routine (or ritual or ceremony or order) is NOT the enemy of life, faith, praise or worship! Neither is God displeased with it and nor is it synonymous with "DEAD!"


Routine is "hardwired" into Creation by GOD. When one routine is thrown out as something dead or undesirable, we begin to substitute another routine. Even the “absence of routine” can be routine. And because we are made in the image of God, IT CANNOT BE AVOIDED. (Note: the same that is said for routine, could also be said for "duty" or even "service") A Paraphrase-- "Let all things be done decently and 'with routine.'" (1 Cor 14:40) ("in order" = regular arrangement.)

So if "routine" is not the problem, then what is? Consider the possibility that what is really "undesirable" is when worship or praise or life in general becomes:

stale--Having lost freshness, effervescence, or palatability: stale bread; stale air. Impaired in efficacy, vigor, or spirit, as from inactivity or boredom.
insipid--Lacking flavor or zest; not tasty. Lacking excitement, stimulation, or interest; dull.
amusing--"no muse" or no thought, no meditation
[from Old French amuser, to stupefy : a-, to (from Latin ad-). See ad- + muser, to stare stupidly.]

Amazing isn't it, that many have aimed at placing "amusement" in the Sunday service to attract the unbelieving. Stupid! In more ways than one.

What God does not like, is our worship or praise or life in general lacking in:

Zeal-- enthusiastic devotion to a cause, an ideal, or a goal and tireless diligence in its furtherance.
[Synonyms would be: passion, fervor, fire, ardor.]

Another way to say this is to " the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." (Mark 12:30)

OK then, what about spontaneity? Many in the charismatic church idolize spontaneity, but do we really want spontaneous?

1. Happening or arising without apparent external cause; self-generated.
2. Arising from a natural inclination or impulse and not from external incitement or constraint.
3. Unconstrained and unstudied in manner or behavior.
4. Growing without cultivation or (human) labor; indigenous.

Weeds are spontaneous and spontaneous sounds very similar to autonomous:

1. Not controlled by others or by outside forces; independent: an autonomous judiciary; an autonomous division of a corporate conglomerate.
2. Independent in mind or judgment; self-directed.
3. a. Independent of the laws of another state or government; self-governing. b. Of or relating to a self-governing entity: an autonomous legislature. c. Self-governing with respect to local or internal affairs: an autonomous region of a country.
4. Autonomic.
[From Greek autonomos : auto-, self- + nomos, law.]

Perhaps We Need To Re-Evaluate. Of course what we really want is the move and liberty of the Holy Spirit. And He is a highly structured and organized individual. And His mode of operation is described in 1 Corinthians 14.


"Ironically, just as some people feel that being given a fixed form constrains them, so the imperative to be spontaneous all the time is an extraordinary constraint on others from which a liturgy (a pattern or routine) actually frees them." ~ N.T. Wright

"Historically speaking and until relatively recently, the Church celebrated the Lord’s Supper every week, considering it the culmination of the service of covenant renewal. But to many of our fellow believers, this fact by itself smacks of ritualism or superstition. 'Why should we do this so often? Do we keep forgetting?'

Well, on one level, yes, we keep forgetting. We believe that we are prone to sin and must constantly be called back to Christ, to be reminded of Christ, to partake of Christ—and not by mere dint of repetition, but rather by faith. This is why this word of scriptural exhortation must always accompany our observance of the sacrament.

But there is something else to realize. Repetition is inescapable, and many who object to weekly commemoration of the Lord’s sacrifice for us have no problem whatever with comparable repetitions in other settings.

Christians who would object (loudly) to our recitation of the Apostles’ Creed weekly—because it makes the words "meaningless"—have no problem founding Christian schools where the students recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily. Is that meaningless too?

When you ask a co-worker if he would like to go out for lunch together, do you expect to hear that he doesn’t like to eat really, because he doesn’t want it ever to become 'routine.' Asked how often he eats, he says that he likes to take a meal once a quarter, so that it will remain 'special.'

In the grip of such thinking, the absence of the Lord’s Supper is repeated also. Week after week, the Table is consistently not there. Does that become part of the routine? The answer to faithless routine is not to abandon the routine, but rather to embrace faith. To abandon routine is simply to establish another routine, and if faith has not been exercised, it too becomes an idol. We are Christians; this is the Table of the Lord. We are to put away our idols.

Some, seeing the very real problem of getting into a liturgical groove, have sought to address the problem by changing the liturgy constantly. But this approach seeks to address a spiritual problem through mere physical means—which is like trying to help out a troubled marriage by rearranging the furniture in the living room.

Liturgy is like a dance. When you are first learning a new dance, you are not really dancing but rather counting. One, two, three, one, two, three. But once you are accustomed to the dance, and you know it, you are freed to think about the one you are dancing with. Of course, with this freedom comes the freedom (and temptation) to think about something else entirely, or someone else entirely.

This problem will not be removed by eliminating the defined dance steps. What happens with modern dances, when people simply gyrate aimlessly? Well, they are still free to think about something else, or someone else, only now a lot sooner, because they never have to think about counting." ~ Douglas Wilson

I like to put it this way:

A train without it's tracks is not free. In fact it usually means death & destruction.


ScottH said...

Great article by Doug. He left out the word "flake,"noun,(1964) a person who is flaky : oddball. "Flaky,"adjective,markedly odd or unconventional : offbeat,wacky. Lord knows there are a lot of flakes in the church. As far as the Lord's Supper being observed only once a month,why not just take the offering once a month? After all we don't want this to become a stale ritual do we?

Wm Mallory said...