Continuing with a conversation with Nehemiah.
“Second, there were weekly routines. I’m sure you have noticed that Sabbath was a big deal for me. I made a point out of closing the gates for Sabbath.” Nehemiah 13:15-22.
“I’ve wanted to talk to you about that. Why so much about gates?” I asked.
“That’s for later. For now, Sabbath. It was a weekly reminder of God’s rest after creation and God’s rescue of his people from Egypt. We can pause daily, but we need a longer time each week to refresh and remember. To set aside our lists and remember that the strength and direction come from God.”
I sensed that he had much more to say about this subject. I do, too. But not here, not today.
“Third, there were monthly reminders. You’ve heard that leaders should reinforce vision every 28 days or so? That’s every four weeks. That’s why God told the people to make a sacrifice every new moon.”
“But don’t the prophets talk about God not liking their New Moon celebrations?”
“Ah, you’ve been searching Biblegateway.com for ‘new moon’, haven’t you. It’s easy to turn a routine, a way of living, into a ritual. We perform a ritual, hoping it has some value in itself. It’s a kind of magic. You wear your lucky underwear. You show up to church every week.
“And God said, through his prophets, that we as a people had started doing these rituals to placate him, or without thinking. Our bodies did the sacrifice, our minds were somewhere else. Sometime read the way Malachi reams out the priests. But just because we ritualize behavior doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look at routine.
“Think of it this way: a ritual is something we do hoping to influence God. A routine is something we do to work on us. A routine like daily prayer or weekly Sabbath or monthly celebration brings our minds back to the story of God’s work. But thinking about a routine this way means we have to think about what we are doing rather than ritually acting.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“I know,” Nehemiah said. “That’s why we keep having these conversations.”