God's Word for today

Thursday, 17 January 2008

The things we do ... without thinking

When deciding to embark on this blogging "thing", I decided to do some surfing to find out what is "out there", and I stumbled on this site called "The wonderful adventures of ASBO Jesus", which contains some extremely funny (if somewhat irreverent) cartoons poking fun at some of the hypocricy that we sometimes display as Christians.

For those readers not accustomed to the British way of doing things, ASBO stands for "Anti-Social Behaviour Order", and it is (I think) a type of court order aimed at restraining you to behaviour that society considers to be "normal".

ASBO's are generally handed down on the scourge of British society. However, while Jesus did not go around terrorising the neighbourhood in the manner exhibited by your average (usually teenage) hooligan, I'm sure that the Pharisees would have wanted to slap an ASBO on Him when His teachings started cutting a little too close to the bone.

What Jesus came to do was to not to overturn the Law, but to challenge the legalistic and often arbitrary manner in which the Law was being applied. But how often do we make "laws" in our churches, which become dogma handed down from one generation to the next - often with succeeding generations having no clue as to why certain things are "done this way". Let me give you a couple of examples from some of the local churches in the area where I live:
  • In one church, there are Bibles permanently in the pews. However, the hymn books are kept under lock and key. Every Sunday the door stewards take the hymn books out and distribute them to the congregation as they walk into church. And after every service, the hymn books are dutifully collected again and locked safely in a cupboard. Now I ask the question: If there is a fear of theft, then why are only the hymn books locked away, and not the Bibles as well? Surely both should be locked away? Alternatively, why not just leave the Bibles and the hymn books in the pews? This will free up the door stewards hands, and enable them to greet the people without having to fiddle with books all the time.

  • For over 100 years, a particular congregation has received the offering in the same way: the stewards walk right to the front of the church, and start passing the collection bags down the pews. They gradually work their way to the back, then when they are done, they march down the centre aisle to the front where the preacher will then pray over the offering. Nowadays, with the risk of robberies on the increase, the church council decided one day to change the procedure. If the stewards started at the back of the church (where the main entrance is), and someone ran in from the street and grabbed a bag, chances are that it would be fairly empty. Doing it the existing way would mean that when the stewards get near to the entrance, the bags would be full, with the increased risk that the entire offering would be lost in the event of a "dash-and-grab". Makes sense? Apparently not to those who receive the offering each week. One stepped down as a steward, and two threatened to leave the church.

Does the church you attend have similar traditions that may not make any sense whatsoever, but are sacrosanct to those who adhere to them? Drop me a comment - we can all have a chuckle at some of our strange customs.

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