something greater

Mar 1, 2023

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Too often we fall into the trap of trying to be Christian in a pre-Christian kind of way. As I write I’m remembering the old song titled “Old-Time Religion“, a catchy tune with unfortunate lyrics:

Give me that old-time religion
Give me that old-time religion
Give me that old-time religion
It’s good enough for me.

I wonder if that’s the way we often prefer our faith and therefore we promote an old-time style of religion preoccupied with the letter of the law.

In this mind we are willing to embrace tough disciplines in the hope of pleasing and appeasing a God who we prefer to keep under control in distant heavens.

Well that might be pre-Christ religion it’s certainly not Christianity,

We are foolish to settle for a life that is just good enough when something greater is offered to us.

One thousand years before Jesus the wise-man Solomon lived. He was a sought-after oracle and an effective old-time-religion theologian.

Two hundred years after Solomon, (eight centuries before Jesus) Jonah put the fear of God into the people of Nineveh: “Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed” calling the people to tough disciplines and penances aimed at twisting God’s arm to alter the course of events.

Jesus teaches that while many came “from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon;… there is something greater than Solomon here”. Jesus continues remembering Jonah’s fire-and-brimstone call to penance adding “BUT there is something greater than Jonah here.”

Wikipedia notes that the Old-Time Religion song “become a standard in many hymnals though it says nothing about Jesus or the gospel”.

That’s my point – Religion reduced to rules and regulations – nothing about Jesus, While that might be religious practice, it’s not Christian faith.

Instead of simply altering events (removing suffering and pain from our lives) Jesus gives us what we really desire, that is, divine (and human) accompaniment through every suffering, every sickness, every loneliness and every death, as the highway to resurrection.

Too often we prefer the safety of the black and white Old-Testament texts and regulations forgetting that the wisest of Old Testament characters whole-heartedly anticipated a Messiah who would come to us and enter life-giving relationship with us.

When we keep God at a safe and controlled distance our problems mount and multiply. This is inevitable when we overlook the most fundamental fact of our Christian faith: Jesus is God with us, here and now, leading us beyond all that is simply good enough to something much greater.

 

6 Comments

  1. I guess we have the relationships of the persons of the Trinity to guide us in our relationship with Jesus? The Holy Spirit descends upon the baptised Jesus Christ. The voice of the Father tells us, reading the gospel, that He is well-pleased with His obedient Son. Jesus prays to his Father, the origin, the one who chose Jesus, generated him, before Creation: “Father”, not “Our Father”, as we his sisters brothers must do. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the loving relationship of Father and Son, giving new life, something greater than what we have without our relationship with Jesus. Yes, John, Jesus leads us to hope in the resurrection.

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  2. Thanks John – I will now look for Jesus amongst all the mishaps, loses, and arguments that make up the day knowing that I being led to something greater !

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  3. Thank you Father John for this reflection. Having been brought up with that ‘Old Time religion’ in my youth I thank the Holy Spirit for having shown me the real light of Jesus teaching now in my advancing years!
    Fred

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  4. Thank you John that has started my day on the right foot and thinking. God bless. Irene

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  5. Thank you John, I am grateful to be reminded of this

    Reply
  6. There’s a balance to be struck. Jesus also tells us that unless our rightenousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, we will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I have always understood that our obligation is to first love God. Right, how? By obedience to His law. It’s too easy to dismiss religious dogma as mere “rules and regulations” and perhaps “old time religion”, but without it we are eventually led to moral relativism. We love God and love His law; to obey God because we want to, not because we are forced to. To understand the reason for it, is to grow beyond blind obedience to it, but to disregard it is not the point.

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