Saturday, 23 April 2011

You can be too religious

This might be a bit of a mind stretch for some but Good Friday was another reminder to me that you can be too religious. In fact it always is. Let me explain.

When I first became a Christian I used to drop into the big church building in my town on Good Friday for part of their service. It went on for three hours and consisted of readings and silent meditations. I don't recall that we sang but perhaps we did. Looking back (and it's a lot of years ago so I may have it wrong) the impression I have is we sat around feeling more and more sorry for Jesus and the terrible things that were done to him. Always came home feeling a bit miserable.

Fast forward to a different sort of church which met in a school hall. Went, as usual, to the Good Friday service, where we did some of the same things but with a sermon and some singing. Over coffee afterwards the Pastor tells us that some of them are going to the pub for lunch and did we want to come along? I'm a bit non-plussed by this and say something about it being Good Friday. Later in conversation he points out to me that it's Good Friday because Jesus went to the cross for our sins, his death was our death and so, while it's a serious and sobering thing it's also to be celebrated. Dwelling on the events of Good Friday is a good thing to do - but if we leave with an overwhelming sense of misery and no joy then there is something askew.

Yesterday we sang some traditional and modern songs about the cross and what happened there. Fifty of us took bread and wine together and knew that we were only able to do so because Jesus did everything to make us acceptable. It doesn't - thank God - depend on my religious performance, my service, or my merits. If it did I would be sunk.

I didn't go to the pub afterwards, I watched a football match instead. It is, perhaps, a sign of an increased spiritual maturity amongst us as a group that no-one expressed horror at the irreligious nature of their minister doing such a thing. Hopefully we are understanding together that these human rules regarding how to be religious are simply that, human rules. The Bible says - "don't let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival... or a Sabbath day." (Colossians 2.16).

No good trying to be more religious than the Bible!

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