Our brains need help. We have a really tough time visualizing and organizing spiritual imperatives, and established rituals can save us some heartache.
Rituals are symbolic acts; they are parables of action. By themselves, they mean nothing. God prescribed ritual worship in Moses’ Law which was actually pretty much in use across many Semitic nations at the time. Obviously, that means when people got wrapped up in the rituals instead of the real meaning of devotion, it was pretty easy for them to slip into idolatry. The rituals for worshiping Baal were very similar to those of Temple worship of Jehovah. God used common ritual “language” for the same reason he used commonly understood symbols in Hebrew language. Hint: Over the course of history in the Bible, the Hebrew language varied between the pure Aramaic of Abraham and the rougher version spoken among Canaanite tribes. Classical Hebrew was simply a very well organize version of Canaanite tongues.
The Covenant at Sinai was written in terms of the culture and learning of the time. The format of the Covenant itself was a well-known suzerain-vassal treaty. Our very mystical and spiritual faith must speak to the times, to the people around us so they’ll recognize the meaning. Your rituals should match your audience.
The rituals themselves are not sacred.
Perhaps you’ve experienced hardened “sacred” rituals at their worst. Try the US military. That was the most hidebound pile of religious rituals I’ve ever seen, and few religions are half so crushingly oppressive about it. It’s part of what makes the established military, with massive budgets and manpower, so weak against ragtag freedom fighters. The latter are far more efficient, and keep their eye on the whole purpose of warfare.
You and are in a spiritual war, and our own human natures are the enemy. We have everything we could possibly need, and we are not bound by silly rules.
When we read the New Testament in light of well-established Hebrew cultural background, we realize it is possible to abstract and extract the underlying principles, to adapt the ancient manifestations of purity and holiness and place them in a different context. Simple examples would be the symbolism of long hair for women and short for me. Paul recommended it very strongly, not as a means to enslaving Gentiles to the old laws, but because the symbolism has been quite universal since ancient times. It’s based on a very broad human tendency, and touches the heart of the more ancient Laws of Noah. Same for conservative clothing. The precise definition of the terms varies culturally, but the relative differences are pretty obvious. We can’t make rules about it because the rules become too much a focus, rather like the idolatry Israel committed with the Bronze Serpent. What was first a symbol of life becomes bondage to death.
If you tell me you love Jesus, I have to decide whether I can work with your relative standards of behavior, a whole range of things. It is not for me to decide if Jesus lives in you, but whether He wants us in close fellowship. Some things are a bit much to ask, for both of us. I can’t justly compel you to do it my way, and you can’t justly compel me for your way. Even within the same local society, variations are rife. It’s okay. Don’t judge the contents; just decide whether you sense the Spirit demanding you to work with the packaging. Recall the pillar of disengagement. Even my use of the Three Pillars was meant only as one form of packaging for something too far above mere words and thoughts.
Rituals are just another language; speak the language of your audience. Don’t assert the packaging is holy.