I’m not religious, people say to me when they think I expect them to go to church. Good for you, I say. I am not religious. They look confused. You ought to be religious. Surely? Nope. Jesus was very religious. But unlike most religious leaders, he did not expect his followers to be as religious. Not religiously, anyway.
Instead of being all religious about religion Jesus was about taking the walls of religion and blowing them wide open. Religion so easily looks inwards and takes care of itself as religious people do their best to be religious, and do religious things in order that God notices and gives them religious points. So we inside who are apparently religious brush up nice and pick up heavenly brownie points by negotiating the Total Wipeout course of religious observance hoping that we don’t negotiate everything only to bounce off the huge balls at the end as God looks on and laughs.
Jesus told a story about a religious father who according to his religion did lots of things wrong, when his irreligious son demanded his inheritance and ran off with the money. He should have said no; then he should have punished him; then he should have disowned him. He should never have welcomed him back. Religion says so. Innate human desire for fairness says so. The religious older brother certainly said so. By their religious standards the religious community should shun and disown the religious father for his reckless and irreligious behaviour. Unfortunately, the irreligious father represents their God. Unfortunately later on they really did shun and disown and kill the irreligious god.
Thankfully God is not a religion and God is not fair. He is wonderfully and beautifully not fair. Or religious. God says love me with all your heart soul mind and strength and love your neighbour, love me enough to turn around from your old life and turn to me and I will welcome you whether or not you tick the boxes and do the stuff and look all religious because that is peripheral to being real in fact to be honest I can’t stand all that stuff it’s all just fluff and bubble and pointless when what I want is your heart. Love me, don’t label me. Come to me, don’t categorise me. Feel me, don’t fillet me. Dance with me, don’t dissect me.
At least, I think that’s what he said. I wasn’t really listening. Not religiously, anyway.
21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
I cannot stand your assemblies.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!