Rhythms and Ruts
Rhythm is a beautiful thing. Rhythm is subtle.
We've all been to a wedding where someone's uncle flails their appendages with reckless abandon. Highlighting, of course, the absence of rhythm. No fingers pointed but some of us have been that person....
Rhythm exists in so many areas of our lives. Sleeping and waking. Finances. Working. Even what we eat every day has rhythms to it.
Rhythm, when left unchecked, easily becomes a rut in our lives.
Ruts can lead to frustration, lack of creativity, and even burnout.
My rhythm of eating at Chipotle (chicken bowl, black beans, brown rice, medium salsa, sour cream, cheese, guac. Every. Single. Time.) three times a week - while delicious - easily becomes a rut and is detrimental to my pursuit of health. Not to mention a budget.
As people that are formed by what we do, our rhythms are vitally important.
In scripture the Israelites were given the rhythm of sabbath - a weekly time set apart for rest and worship. Sabbath was meant to remind them that they were no longer slaves in Egypt. It was meant to remind them and us that while every major world religion has a holy place where they worship, we have sabbath. Time is our Cathedral to worship and honor God.
The good rhythm of sabbath and the whole of the 10 commandments became a rut for the Israelites. What was once meant to connect God with God's people quickly became a point of contention. The 10 commandments become the 613 laws that are referenced as "The Law" throughout scripture.
This week I studied Leviticus (a book chalk-full of Jewish law) in my Mariners daily read Bible. Leviticus is full of passages about proper temple worship, ceremonial cleanliness, and how to prepare offerings. These passages are really about holiness.
God's people were liberated from slavery in Egypt and were now being saved for a covenental relationship with God.
The Israelites had so many rules and laws (remember, 613 LAWS) because their rhythm became a rut. This rut eventually became legalistic to the point that Pharisees devoted their lives to assuring people's full commitment to the law.
Later in the scriptures we reach the Gospel of Mark. In Mark, Jesus tells people to "come and follow me." He was telling them to leave the ruts they had been occupying and seek something new. Jesus sought to make disciples. He offered a radically new way of being in the world.
In Leviticus people were striving to be clean for the Temple. In the good news of Jesus the whole thing is a temple. The whole thing (life, you, me, us) was meant to be holy. In Leviticus they were commanded to prepare a gift. In the gospel of Jesus it's all a gift.
When Jesus proclaimed, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6) he was flying directly in the face of the rut culture of Leviticus. For ancient Jews the Law was known as "the way." Jesus doesn't proclaim that he is a way. Jesus proclaims that he is THE way. He was offering his listeners a new way of being in the world. He was offering them something different than a rhythm, formula, or pattern to follow. He was offering them Himself.
This week I've been reminded that I'm invited to choose a new way of being in the world. I'm invited to choose a cross-shaped way of life that is marked by love for neighbor, sacrifice, and service to others. The invitation that Jesus gave to young disciples 2,000 years ago to "come and follow me" is extended to you and I today.