When you go into one of our local fish and chip shops, you are first asked by the fryer if you want any fish. When it is your turn, the server than says ‘next please,’ but she is actually asking you what you would like to buy, and you then tell her. When you have finished, she tells you how much it costs – but what she means is give me that much money. You then get ignored, until you are later looked at and addressed as ‘salt and vinegar’ – but actually you are being told to pay attention, your order is nearly ready, and would you like any salt or vinegar adding before it is wrapped up and handed over?
Every chippy has a different ritual, and you can tell who is new to the shop as you watch them being served and looking bemused and amused – and at the same time you realise how comfortable you have become with the ritual, and that you are an ‘insider,’ and that there is a sense of belonging in this. This is now ‘your’ chippy!
It would be odd if it stopped selling fish and chips, but became a paper shop. But because the counter is the same, and the people who run it are the same – or at least they are fond of how it used to be – when you come in you still get asked if you would like any fish. For old times sake you oblige – but it just means nice to see you, thank you for coming, we value how things were. Silly really, but quaint, and we all know what we are doing and why. It would definitely be even harder for the new customer to figure out what was going on, though. But then again, having made the effort, it may become quite a novel and popular thing to do. People may even travel miles to visit that paper shop.
Worship, for us a church, is about many things. But ultimately, if we are not getting and not offering real spiritual food, for everyone who is hungry, then we are just playing at shop.
Please, let’s never fall into that as habit.