Is Repetition Unholy?

by Thomas

I remember the first time I heard the bizarre statement that repetition took away from worship. It was, not surprisingly, in a Baptist church. I had, probably naively, asked why the church didn’t practice communion more often. The response was that repetition made spiritual practice meaningless and unimportant: “If you do something too much it no longer has any value, so we only practice communion every now and then to keep it fresh and exciting.”

That is an American response.

That is the response of a person who was raised on instant gratification.

That is the response of a person who expects new, exciting forms of entertainment.

That is the response of a person who values change over consistency.

That is the response of a person who values feeling more than commitment.

Most importantly, that is not a Christian response.

The Christian response is that our spirituality and worship are everyday, every hour, every minute happenings. We are admonished to take communion each time we gather, to pray without ceasing, to pray in a certain way, to sing songs, confess sins, listen to the reading of Scripture, meditate, teach, learn. These are all things we repeat. Unceasingly.

Repetition is not unholy. It is a deep, elongated experience that should make us into disciples.

Repetition in worship is just like when you tell a family member you love them.

Repetition in worship is just like when you take a drink of water.

Repetition in worship is just like when you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Repetition in worship is just like when you go to sleep.

Repetition in worship is just like when you go to work.

Repetition in worship is just like when you turn on a light so that you can see clearly.

Yes, I can readily admit that we can stumble into laziness or unfocused action in repetition, but that is not the fault of the spiritual practice, just as much as it is love’s fault when a spouse just mumbles the words “I love you” without any thought or care. We need to learn to embrace repetition in worship, the normalcy and comfort of sameness in worship, just like we accept this normalcy and comfort of routine in the rest of our lives.

I repeat: we need to learn to embrace repetition in worship. And when we do, we will become aware of the slow and steady movement of the Spirit in every aspect of our life. When we do, we will become aware of how God is steadily working on our holiness: through repetition.

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