What habits or ‘customs’ are you known for in your community? As your neighbours watch you live your life, making choices day by day, what do they notice? What habits of WORSHIP and using the WORD of GOD do you practice?
“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.”
Nazareth was the community in which Jesus had been raised. Since Joseph and Mary had returned from their trip to Bethlehem, because they were of the lineage of David, and then on to Egypt, because of a tyrant’s oppression, they had lived in this community. Other children had been born and the family had settled into typical life in a typical community.
When the next Sabbath day came, Jesus joined the other faithful worshippers and headed to the local synagogue. Temple visits, far away in Jerusalem, were mandated three times a year, but synagogue worship was a weekly event. This ‘teaching centre’ served as a place of instruction and the sacred scrolls were kept for regular use. Even today, in synagogues around the world, scrolls are handled with great care and retrieved by the ‘scroll-keeper’ when the readings are required.
Luke notes for us that Jesus went into the synagogue, “as was his custom.” O to build a custom of regularly gathering with God’s people to worship Him and to fellowship as part of life’s normal routine. Churches have their “holy day” visitors, those who wonder why every time they visit either poinsettias or lilies are placed for ‘decor’ by the flower committee. Many are “decent absentees” not attending faithfully but at least showing up often enough that they are recognized. Some never gain the custom of weekly worship.
a) Has sports team involvement with their children sapped sacred time and energy?
b) Has exhaustion from a week of overwork led to viewing Sunday as a day of recovery from seeking first our kingdom, not God’s?
c) Has distance grown in our relationship with God leaving us with a cold heart and little desire to meet with Him?
d) Has some ‘dark’ experience in some church somewhere left us with a distaste for what God commands?
Whatever the reason, our lack of attendance stands in sharp contrast with the one whom we claim to know and follow as our Lord and Saviour. Habits take time–“as was his custom” is not declared after two consecutive weeks of fellowship!
Luke also notes the reading of the Word of God by the Son of God. “…And he stood up to read.” I had the privilege several years ago of visiting Israel and watched with fascination the first “reading of the law” by those who were becoming men in a formal ceremony by the “Wall of Rejoicing” (also known as the Western Wall or at times the Wailing Wall.) Video crews captured the preparation and presentation of the scrolls to young men who took their place for the first time in reading the “Torah.”
I wonder if we shouldn’t give a higher priority to training youth to read Scripture. Shouldn’t we read well, read with understanding, read with care so that those who listen gain spiritual insight? Scripture Reading, which I’ve had the privilege of teaching and practicing for many years, is a sacred task. We may not ‘stand up to read’ (though this habit may show an honouring of the Word of God), but we must read and read and read some more. Sloppy reading of Scripture is shameful for those who believe “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17)
So what are your habits individually as a family and as individuals as it comes to WORSHIP and the WORD? Perhaps it’s time to form some life-long ‘customs.’