Throughout his ministry, Jesus confronted those within the religious authorities who had power. There was one message that seemed quite clear each and every time he confronted them: you’re missing the point of that practice.
He says this nearly explicitly in Matthew 23:1-12. Jesus also offers advice for how we can avoid the error of their ways.
That advice summed up in verses 8 to 10, where Jesus says that we are all learners that he is our only teacher and that he is our instructor.
In these verses, Jesus is reminding the gathered crowd, and especially is disciples, to allow themselves to reimagine and re-interpret the rights and rituals passed on to them.
The religious authorities, Jesus explains, have last the importance of the practices passed on to them from their elders. They do the practices because that’s what you do – and not because of the ways the allow them to connect with God.
As I’ve considered these words in their context, (Jesus is speaking to the religious authorities about their misuse of rituals and practices) it occurs to me that one of the challenges that the church faces today, is a challenge that we have faced for a long time: What do we do when our practices and our rituals no longer connect us with God?
As we seek to create experiences that are more inclusive, this includes finding different ways to experience the presence of God in our midst.
Worship is about how we experience God’s presence in our midst. But the experiences of God’s presence don’t have to be confined to one hour on Sunday morning. What if we open ourselves up to worship in new ways, allowing new experiences and practices to connect us to the divine?
I imagine that we might discover and remember that God is accessible to us in all kinds of ways. A more inclusive church could celebrate the myriad ways we find a connection with the divine.
How have you felt God’s presence? What were you doing when you have felt most connected with God?