This week will culminate Saturday night in a shift of my personal family dynamics. My favorite daughter (ok.. I only have one daughter) will be married this Saturday. This means I will officially relinquish her protection to another man. I have found that exhilarating and yet quite emotional. I didn't think the transition would be that difficult, but it has. My little girl, who is not so little anymore, will embark on a new chapter in her life, provided she does not rappel down one of Seattle's office buildings with her boss and be late to her own wedding. (Seriously, she's thinking about it!)
This marriage will be a union of not only two individuals and the blending of two lovely teenage daughters into a cohesive family unit but also give Patti and I a wonderful son-in-law and instant grandchildren. Christmas will be more full and seemingly more complete.
As I was thinking about the wedding ceremony, I realized we all use ceremonies and rituals in an attempt to convey or express a deeper truth. The wedding ceremony has everyone dressed up in their finery and the wedding party in very special attire. The bride wears white and there is the procession down the aisle with the father giving away his daughter to someone else who will care for her and protect her.
There will be an exchange of vows and rings, the fist kiss as husband and wife and a presentation to the gathered guests and friends. The ceremonial ritual is full of deeper meanings and validates what has already transpired in the lives of the two people getting married. It is a public proclamation of a personal relationship the two share.
It is very much the same thing God does for each of us when we come to a relationship in Jesus. God loved us so much he sent His son, Jesus (God in the flesh) to die for our sins, and make us righteous and holy in His sight. We now wear white symbolizing the righteousness God has imputed to us just as the bride wears white for her groom. Jesus has become our groom despite whatever it is we have done. He loves us unconditionally. To receive that love all we need to do is place our faith and trust in Him and invite Him to into our lives. We have then established a relationship with him.
For the Christian, we validate our relationship with Jesus through the sacrament of Baptism. It is an outward sign that represents the inner transformation and commitment we have made. It is a ritual and a ceremony but much more than that. We embark on an entirely new direction in our lives-- and the angels in heaven rejoice just as the wedding guests will rejoice this Saturday night over my daughter and son-in-law.
For the Christian, receiving Jesus marks a shift in family dynamics. A Christian is now part of a universal family of believers who have repented from their sins and old way of life, accepted Jesus into their hearts by confessing with their mouth He is Lord and believing that God has raised Him from the dead. That family is comprised of many different folks who share that common belief, though it may be expressed differently.
What is your spiritual family dynamic? Do the rituals and ceremonies and services you participate in each week reflect what you believe and walk out in your daily lives or are they just nice ceremonies that make you feel good? This dynamic isn't just related to spiritual matters. You may not believe in God. What is it in your life that gives you real meaning and is really satisfying and life changing to other people?
I submit that if what you do and feel isn't grounded and based on a relationship with God through His son Jesus, your life is likely pretty empty. People who are filthy rich and seem to have everything are often the most lonely and empty people you will ever see. Those who are dirt poor but have a relationship and belief in God and a strong believing family around them are content despite their lack of worldly goods. It is a relationship with God that makes the difference.
Jesus makes that difference in our lives. He takes us away from doing religious ceremonies and rituals to earn God's favor and brings us into a relationship with Him. All of a sudden those ceremonies and rituals mean something because they reflect what has happened to us spiritually through that personal relationship. It is personal. Belonging to a specific church doesn't mean squat. Belonging to the person, Jesus, who insituted this organism called the church means everything.
So, does your own spiritual life reflect a living relationship with Jesus or is it just ceremonies and traditions and rituals that leave you empty and yearning for something more? If it is the latter, Jesus can fix that. The choice, as always, is yours.