The doorway to my regular Starbucks coffee ritual greeted me with the words, “Take Comfort in Ritual.” The sign reminded me that there are rituals in my life that truly give me comfort and restoration.  A cup of coffee and music while I work… A cup of tea at night… Sunday afternoon football in the fall… These rituals are positive habits in my life.

The sign also reminded me that while some rituals bring comfort, they still may not be good for me—comfort is a facade that hides the inner rot.  I have a friend whose daily ritual involves one or two donuts every morning.  While the constancy of this daily treat brings her comfort, it also introduces a lot of empty calories while doing damage to her arteries.  So while my friend remains thin, her daily donut ritual is doing damage on the inside that will only bring suffering later on.

In the Church, every ritual seems to be under attack without regard to the benefit.  Some rituals, rightly, have been attacked by modern-day  reformers because they have contributed to a fat and lazy Church.  Despite their positive impact, other rituals in the Church have been wrongly attacked and rejected by many followers of Jesus.  In my own life, any ritual that fosters relationship with Jesus is worth keeping.  Any ritual that does not foster relationship with Jesus—even though it may bring comfort—must be put aside for my Faith to grow strong.

The Starbuck sign got me thinking:

  • In your own life, what rituals bring you comfort?
  • Do these rituals foster relationship with Jesus… with others… or do they hinder real community?

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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