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Going Through the Motions

The early 1800s saw what history now calls the “Industrial Revolution” in Europe and the United States. A big part of the “Industrial Revolution” was the beginning of factory work. Production was broken down into a series of smaller jobs and laborers would repeat monotonous tasks all day every day. Doing the same things, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, a worker could quickly become disconnected from the larger work being done and stop performing the work carefully. 

Not surprisingly, the early 1800s also saw the origin of the phrase, “Going through the motions.”

Now that phrase is applied to more than just factory work, of course. “Going through the motions” is a metaphor that indicates the meaning behind what we do has been lost, but we continue to do the same things we always have. The phrase describes surface level actions that may look the same to the casual observer, but in truth are just the bare minimum of what is required, with no connection to a deeper purpose

We can even apply it to our own Christian discipleship. 

Disabling Lent author Rev. Tiffany Jones describes times when people of faith are “only willing to do just enough, the bare minimum, to honor God without the sacrifice of giving their actual personal best.” In Rev. Jones’ devotion, she applies the idea specifically to how Christians sometimes try to be allies of the disabled community. (We’ll think more about this idea this weekend in worship.)

If we think honestly about it, there are times when all of us feel like we’re just “going through the motions” of following Jesus. It’s not a bad thing; it’s just something to be aware of when it happens. From time to time, our prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness become … well, routine. We neglect (or forget) the meaning underneath these practices. It has happened to me numerous times. And I’m sure it has happened to you as well.

Lent is the perfect season to stop the activity grind and try to remember why we do what we do. Following Jesus should be more than just repeating monotonous tasks all week every week. I pray that this season we will reconnect to the larger work being done and renew our commitment to following Jesus.

See y’all in church!




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