[Moved and expanded from the comments]
How are ceremonies and rituals antithetical to God wanting our love? When God prescribed various ceremonies and rituals to be performed by the Jews of the OT, did He expect them *not* to perform such motivated by love? Were such ceremonies and rituals enjoined by God not in any sense designed to be expressions of love for God? (You also say you’d much rather i clean your study than stand outside it and sing to you. Why then does God ask for ceremony in the OT? And not just ceremony, but *so much* ceremony?)
It is, of course, true that the new covenant is not the same as the old. There are parallels, and there are certain elements of the old that remain: love God, love neighbor, etc. But God certainly never intended to replace the Mosaic covenant with one built on the same pattern.
Of course, if God had commanded that we undertake various rituals today, well, that’s what we should do — he is, after all, God.
But before I wrote the last post, I read every post-resurrection verse that mentions “worship” or else “love” and “God” in the same verse. The verses that speak to how to worship God or how to love God are all relational and push us toward love of our fellowman in response to the crucifixion. And it’s the inspired text that repeatedly tells us that the fruit of Spirit are loving attitudes, or that love is the greatest command and the most excellent way, etc., etc.
You see, the reason I say what God wants today is love and not ritual is because he simply doesn’t command ritual. It’s that simple. The commands just plain aren’t there.
But because we come to the text asking how to worship, rather than asking God what he wants from us, we “find” instructions in incidental references, silences, and such like, and so we find ourselves forced to invent a strange way of thinking and reading just to have “commands” for how to appease God on Sunday mornings.
And I do mean “appease.” The churches I once attended prayed for God’s forgiveness for any errors in worship at least 6 times (opening prayer, “main” prayer, prayer for bread, prayer for juice, prayer for offering, closing prayer). In each one we asked for forgiveness and that our worship be found decent and in order. We were afraid — so afraid that we weren’t sure we even remained saved from the opening prayer to the main prayer — while worshiping God.
God radically changed the system –
(Jer 31:31-33) “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, ” declares the LORD. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
The new covenant “will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers.” Rather, the new covenant takes us back to the covenant with Abraham — faith being credited as righteousness (Rom 4, Gal 3). And there was no temple and no rules for worship — just a faithful but deeply flawed man walking with God and forming a community dedicated to God. And this likely is why the epistles simply do not establish an order of worship or required ritual.
(I urgently note that the new covenant also forms us into a body, saved as family together, to be a community that testifies about Jesus to the world. We are not saved to go it alone.)
Now, why did God then require elaborate ritual under the Law of Moses? I don’t know. Maybe it was because the people needed that kind of ritual to feel like they had a relationship with God. It was a primitive society leaving a deeply pagan Egypt.
But why didn’t God have Abraham build a temple? Or go to church weekly? Or even sing God’s praise? That, to me, is an even more interesting question.
Now, I am big on the assembly, and I would never recommend that we give up meeting together — just as the Hebrews writer told us. But it’s just critically important that we get shed of the lie that our relationship with God centers on the assembly. It does not.
The marks of the church are its love for each other, the Spirit, and its unity in the faith. And they’re not much of a mark if people have to go inside a church building to see them.
No, the marks are only marks when the church is the church outside the building — where it’s participating in God’s mission. Then the marks will become evident to a world that is desperate to see the marks.