Jerusalem is the site of the holiest places regarded by the three of the major religions of the world; Islam, Judaism and Christianity. In Jerusalem worshipers can venerate the wailing wall, the Dome of the Rock, or the holy sites of Christianity, such as the presumed sites of the birth, life and crucifixion of Jesus. Jews go to the Western Wall to pray, caress and kiss the wall and bow and leave written prayers tucked between the crevices. Muslims worship and pray at their holy sites, and Christians follow the Via Dolorosa, the presumed path that Christ took to his crucifixion, stopping along the way at the “seven stations of the cross.” Monks, rabbis and holy men abound. All of them worship their holy places. And sadly enough, they kill one another with unrelenting zeal. They struggle for the right to be in the holy place. They destroy the holy places even as they engage in the struggle.
I know. It seems a little crazy. What is it about worshiping places, ways and histories? In doing so, quite often people violate all of the tenets of the corresponding religion. They are passionate, obsessed with the right to be right. Does this sound familiar?
What does clinging to old religious ways bring to us? Religious wars, division, separation, judgment and a great deal of suffering. Do you think this is what Christ had in mind? Do you think this is why he lived, taught, suffered and died? So that we could continue to act like self-absorbed babies snatching toys and crying to be first? Is it any wonder that the world mocks religion?
What is it about worshiping something other than God? It seems to be easy to worship something that we can see or touch. Is this not idolatry? Were we not warned about this? We are to worship God only. Not a representation of him, not a reminder of him. There is a very simple lesson in the Bible! In the 4th chapter of John Jesus is visiting with a woman who thinks she knows how and where to worship. She says to him in v.20, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Well, Jesus had a word for her. He replied to her that “the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” (v.21 and 23)
Do you comprehend what he was saying to this woman? He was advising her, even then, that there is no place or particular way to worship God, but that we must worship him inwardly, through the spirit of God, and in truth. Is this so hard to understand? Apparently it is. Today do we worship God through a mediator, an entity? Do we worship him through the church and believe that he cannot be reached otherwise? I know. When you start to think about this, it is a tape loop from which we cannot exit. It spools round and round. You know that we must worship the father in spirit and in truth, and that in fact he is not contained in any religious facility, document or icon. You do know this, don’t you? And yet, there is such confusion. How do you get out of this loop? No doubt it will take a trauma, one in which are confronted with absolute utter reality. If you truly desire truth, God will provide this moment for you. Be warned that it is difficult, but it is the only way there is to come to an understanding. Otherwise you will be trapped going round and round, trying to separate God from church in an unending cycle of doubt and revelation.
I will repeat it again. There is no place, no institution, no dogma, no document, no book of written rules, no meeting of men in conference, no lineage, no history, nothing, that must be worshiped. God wants us to know him first of all, foremost and only. He wants to be intimate with us. He wants us to hear and know his voice. He wants us to be sure that we understand his voice. He wants us to be free of doubt, guilt, fear, division and judgment. He wants us to listen to pastors and teachers, for they have much to give to us. However, these men must never be mistaken to be mediators, or to be closer to God than the individual worshiper.
Decisions, decisions, decisions. Walk away from them. Mandates, rulings, corporate laws…walk away from them. This is not to say that the information and admonition contained in some of these laws is not good, but it must be written in your own heart, not on some document that is passed down from some hierarchical leadership. Why do we scoff at a papal bull, but tenderly caress a conference decision? Are they any different from one another? Only in that they originate from different sources.
It’s one thing to admire our own ways, but yet another to hate those who do not endorse them. What is so hard about allowing others their own delusions? The self-righteousness of those who seek to be justified by their own works is very shaky, and deep inside they all know it. Because of this they are easily threatened by all those who would dare to challenge their particular delusion. They are all delusions. None of them is the right one.
Satan comes as an angel of light, and his deception is so successful because good has always been more deceptive than evil. Our own goodness, our own rightness, our own way seems very good to us. Seldom are we able to see our own good ways as evil. And yet it is true, our ways are evil. We so often want to worship our ways, when in truth, we are to worship the one who pointed the way. Can you get this? Does it make any sense? I fear that it escapes us. Our ways are so dear to us. Being right feels so good. It makes us feel even better when we can prove who is wrong. Naturally, the one who is wrong is the one who is different from us!
May God help us all!