What does it mean to be religious? Is it obedience? Conformity? Believing in the common doctrine and theology? All of these? Or None but something more meaningfull?
In the New Testament James in chapter one describes pure religion undefiled.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
or, as Jesus quoted Isaiah (and to which I have commented)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”
I have not been called to join a church or be validated by the formality of an organized sect.
God, the Eternal Father in Heaven communes with me.
His spirit lives in me always.
Father has called me and invigorates me through the Spirit.
I and the Father are one.
As are each of us.
“He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.”
Our Father is the God of Compassion.
The poor are numerous and their poverty is not only a want of bread, but a poverty of spirit.
Yet theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
The gospel is a living practice of the life of compassion, concern, kindness and advocacy on behalf of the poor.
I am not called to get the poor to join churches, but to love the poor as I myself love the Father.
“He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted.”
Those who mourn will be comforted.
The meek will inherit the earth.
He hath not sent me to say ‘Be of good cheer, come to church. say your prayers, and God will bless you.’
He hath not sent me to say ‘Take upon yourself my name and declare that I am your redeemer and all will go well with you.’
He hath sent me to cheer the brokenhearted with my own strength and spirit,
to pray for the brokenhearted as I pray for my own brokenhearted-ness.
He hath sent me to bring the brokenhearted into my own circle of prayer and bless them by deed more than word.
“To preach deliverance to the captives.”
Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled.
The merciful will be shown mercy.
He hath sent me to teach the captives about freedom and to work with them to attain freedom.
He hath sent me to place less value on my own riches and comfort and a greater worth on acts of goodness for the sake of goodness.
He hath not called me to stand in a church, speak from a book, condemn from the pulpit and retire to my mansion.
“And recovering sight to the blind”
He hath not called me to say, ‘Lo, come to my chapel and be saved,’ but to send me out of my chapel and into the darkness with a light of compassion and action.
Where there is blindness, I come to teach vision, a life led by the Spirit, and knowledge of the God of Compassion.
I come to urge repentance to wholeness in an absence of blind guilt, sorrow and a sense of condemnation at the hands of those who deem themselves righteous rather than upright.
“To set at liberty them that are bruised.”
The pure in heart will see God.
Peacemakers will be called the sons of God.
And the persecuted? Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
He hath not called me to inflict fear, shame nor guilt, but to bandage wounds, pour on oil and wine and carry to the inn and pay from my own sources for the ministrations of healing.
“To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
A time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. The acceptable year of the Lord is every year, every month, every week, every day as God and Heaven are a living part of every moment.