On any given Sunday morning many millions of people will be attending one form of church or another, and many millions will not. There is a way of religious thinking that believes that presence in or absence from church makes a decisive difference in one’s spiritual well-being. But this was not the teaching of Jesus, who was notorious for violating any Sabbath law in his eagerness to be about his ministry of healing and love.
It is not where your body is that’s important, Jesus taught again and again, but where you are in consciousness. Thus, in the Sermon on the Mount, he says, “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5: 22-24).”
Remember that to Jesus all people are our brothers, and the importance of what he’s saying is clear. There is no spiritual benefit in being present in church, and going through the rituals, as if outer behavior alone could be the means to inner peace. If there is negative energy around any of your relationships, your time would be better spent healing those relationships, so that your presence in church is a reflection of your inner spiritual commitment.
There are many important and powerful reasons people give for attending church – the message, the energy, the people. It is possible to hear or realize something in a church setting that will help you heal your relationships. But to attend any church because you’re afraid not to attend, or to believe that simply being there without any sense of joy or commitment will be enough – these are attitudes that block our true experience of the presence of God as love.
It is a common metaphor in the Bible to state that our bodies are temples of the Lord; and it is an apt description, given what the writers believed about the Temple. Within it was the very presence of God. The altar within us, at the very center of our being, is our heart consciousness. In that energy, indeed, is the very presence of God. Each of us is a temple, a church, a whole and complete spiritual center. When we come together in that awareness, we create a greater heart energy, a more beautiful temple. That is why we gather together, on Sunday or any other time – not out of a sense of duty, but out of a sense of joy.
I AM grateful today for my Oneness with the Divine, and for its Presence at the heart of my Being.