You know the story of Cinderella, right? A beautiful daughter is mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters, who force her to do all the dirty work of the house. When the Prince announces a ball so that he can choose a wife, Cinderella is not allowed to attend – that is, not until her fairy godmother appears. The rest, as you know, is history: the dress, the pumpkin carriage, the dancing, the stroke of midnight, the glass slipper, the happily ever after.
It’s a classic story, but really the only thing most of us share with Cinderella is the menial housework which we all must do. Most of us don’t marry royalty or attend fancy events. Designer shoes and limousines are rare luxuries. And “happily ever after”? Well, for many of us, that remains to be seen.
In the meantime, all we have time for is mean, ordinary work. Sometimes the “daily grind” can feel as meaningless as picking lentils out of a pile of ashes.
Do you ever feel like church is that way, too? Do worship services feel repetitive, mundane, and even boring to you? Do you feel obligated or required to come to church? It’s all right if you say “yes” – I won’t tell anyone.
Take a look at Leviticus 6:8-13, a passage we came across last week in the course of our “Chronological Bible” reading. Leviticus is full of regulations, procedures, and rules about how the ancient Israelites were supposed to worship God while wandering in the wilderness. And let’s be honest: some of the chapters in Leviticus are downright boring for us to read. (Just think how the Israelites must have felt as they wandered aimlessly for forty years!)
In this passage, God gives the priests instructions about how to care for the burnt offering that was to be presented continuously before God. Each morning, the priest on duty was to wake up, put on his special priestly clothes, get ready to go to work, and then…
…collect the ashes from last night’s sacrifice.
And then he had to put on his regular clothes. He was then allowed to take the ashes outside the camp to the dump site. The priestly linen clothing was only worn for the menial morning task: Cinderella’s housekeeping work.
What was so special about those ashes? Why was the priest required to wear fine linen clothes for a job that would more than likely get them dirty? And why did the cleaning job require special clothes, but taking out the trash called for a different costume?
I don’t have good answers to these questions. But what I do know is this: these few verses point out the importance of treating God with great respect. The very mundane act of sweeping up yesterday’s sacrificial ashes was worthy of special attire. Being in God’s presence, even for that short amount of time, required priestly clothes – a symbol for the priest’s attitude of humility and holiness.
Every Christian is a priest, in the biblical sense: each of us can offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 NIV). As we do the work of worship, let us pursue humility and holiness before the Lord. Every encounter with God is a unique and meaningful experience, no matter how mundane the activity may seem to us. There is great value in worship, because it is a service that we give to God.
After all, someday the Prince of Peace will come again, and, yes, there will be a “happily ever after” for his Bride. In the meantime, let us express our love for God by worshiping him regularly, joyfully, and intentionally – even in the ordinariness of our worship, and even in the ordinariness of our lives.