Do we allow sticks and stones to take the place of spiritual life? Recently in a discipleship time, a pastor friend shared a heartbreak that was his main prayer request for the day. A deacon’s meeting had stirred up more heat than light. One man was upset that Christmas decorations had been placed on the Lord’s Supper Table. It had stewed inside him for a couple of months and spilled out in this meeting creating some heated conversation.
It raises the question, “Is church furniture sacred?” I do not mean by the question can furniture be symbolic, for certainly it can. But does a table of any kind actually take on a life of its own that conveys grace to participants in worship? It is a piece of wood. Can good things bed transformed to idols?
The same context sees cut flowers in a vase sit on that same piece of furniture every week. They put offering plates on the table. So how do we fall into the trappings of majoring on the minors? Why do our traditions get elevated to a place of intrinsic spiritual value? Please don’t misunderstand what I am asking; there are indeed some traditions that are significant. Jesus told us to observe the Lord’s Supper. He commanded us to baptize.
But how do we get sucked into other trappings. What type music is required for worship? Can the Holy Spirit only convey glory through traditional hymns? Is there intrinsic value to singing from a hymnbook over words on a screen? Why do we allow personal preferences to become “dogma” in our minds and hearts?
Do you remember when the children of Israel were bitten by fiery serpents in their wandering in the wilderness? (Numbers 20).God told Moses to put a brass serpent on a pole and those who would look at it would be healed. Unfortunately something functional and useful wa later elevated to sacred status and worshipped in itself. Some of the Israelites had begun to worship the brass serpent and under King Hezekiah it had to be destroyed.(2 Kings 18:4)
Jesus cautioned us in this matter. “This people honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt. 15:8-9). Traditions become a problem when they interfere with God’s mission and ministry. It would be interesting to sit down sometime and make a list of things we do in our lives and worship that might be more human tradition than they are Word of God.