This is a problem.
Observing a particular faith tradition implies that we practice our faith, but perhaps we are separated from the action. We are watching. We are regarding from a distance.
Jesus was “an observant Jew” in that he kept the holidays, honored the Sabbath (even when it didn’t seem so) and practiced the law of Moses. But note that throughout his life he also healed, fed, prayed, and taught. And he both equiped and expected his disciples to do the same.
Following Jesus is more than merely observing Jesus or observing the practices of Jesus’ Church. The difference here makes a church thrive or wither.
- Churches thrive when there is an expectation that the congregation will be active in Jesus’ ministry.
- Churches wither when there is an expectation that the pastor is “the professional Christian” on behalf of everyone else.
Note that not everybody is expected to do everything. I’ve known homebound members who made pastoral phone calls to other homebound members. I’ve known children who helped deliver food to new parents with their own parents. I’ve known very busy parishioners who were willing to give up their free time on weeknights because there was a need that moved them to the point that they could not not serve.
Being an “observant person of faith” is not what Jesus had in mind, if we are merely observing from a pew. Mere observation makes us better critics than disciples. It’s easy to sit back and appraise the state of our worship or youth program or mission projects if we are not willing to offer service ourselves.
On the cusp of Christmas and a new year, this is a great time to assess who we are as believers. Many of us are holiday Christians and this is when we will make an effort to attend beautiful services. Many of us are observant in a regular way. And some of us find joy in making a difference by stepping up and serving. (Let’s be those people.)
Thanks to JC (a colleague, not Our Savior) for the inspiration for this post.