When I was a wee chap I used to go into church and instantly become very silent. The high ceilings, the massive columns, the smell of polish, the cavernous gloom of that place, the temperature always slightly below comfortable … It was place we went to have a look at God and Him look at us. Like a museum. Museums have the same effect on me. And art galleries. Places where my behaviour changes in line with others’ “expectations”.
As an adult I find the “fashion” for (pre-service) reverence equally manipulative:
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. John 2:13-22
But he was speaking of his body.
And of mine – my holistic whole “body, mind and spirit”. “Retreat” springs to mind … going on retreat … Now an industry in its own right. A detox of the spirit and soul restoring the body and mind. A holistic whole “body, mind and spirit”.
Now I wonder why.
Why do we let in so much “cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers” to our normal living? Why all this “stuff” that drains rather than energises … all this service and duty and obligation … all the “stuff” we are taught to do as “good Christians” … ?
Why the need to “prepare for worship” … why the need for “retreat” … ?
I am not sure what “God” will think of me for dismissing so much of my teaching. I am not sure what God will think of me seeing him as my pal rather than “GOD who could fry your unworthy sinful ass in an instant but doesn’t (because he is a loving “GOD”)” as I was taught. I am not even sure what God will think of me choosing to rarely set foot inside the doors of ANY church brick building.
I used to think I had to do all that stuff because that was what “GOD” wanted.
But how was I so sure of that either … how can any of us be sure of “The Way” (as taught)? “The Way” that is a six-lane highway … brightly lit and signposted with massive “THIS WAY ONLY “ signs … all leading to Great Big Heavenly Gates glowing just over the horizon (always just over the horizon). That was my teaching.
Along with that “narrow winding path” quote (as we stuck to the six-lane highway).
Why do we know so much (but continue to quote “yet now we see darkly”) … Why do we quote this “narrow winding path” (as we stick fearfully to the six-lane highway) … Why this “retreat industry” … this “prepare for worship” need… if not to remedy our stuffing our lives with too much “Christian” duty and obligation? In other words … why do we teach “The Way” with such confidence …
When we seem unable to live it in our own daily living?