Not “going to church” can make us feel really guilty, especially if we have been brought up that this was something we really ought to do.
The Revd Dr Fergus King (Monday 27 April)
Not “going to church” can make us feel really guilty, especially if we have been brought up that this was something we really ought to do. Religious observance can become a really strong force in our lives and behaviour. Not only that, we can really beat ourselves up for failing to keep such observances.
When Jesus encouraged or, at least, did not stop his disciples from plucking grain on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-26), the reaction from his opponents was scathing: they had broken an important religious observance. But, were they really, and was Jesus leading them astray? Ed P. Sanders has pointed out that most of Jesus’ supposed breaking of Judaic commandments were not really the case, and there were often approved precedents within the Scriptures. This is one such case. Jesus was not encouraging his disciples to break the Law: David’s men eating the bread of the Presence, which properly was only to be eaten by priests (1 Samuel 21:1-6), had set a precedent. Sometimes circumstances overcome observance.
Jesus then goes on to explain exactly that: observances are useful, but necessity may mean that observance be put aside (Mark 2:27).
We seem to be in a similar position. Necessity, ensuring that the vulnerable are not exposed to a potentially fatal virus, takes precedence over observance (“going to church”).
But this is only temporary: normal service will be resumed. And there are lots of things we can do to sustain our love of God (reading Scripture, prayer, meditation, all those online things you never realised we could attempt, shared phone calls for prayer). Even if we cannot “go to church”, as long as we can be bothered, Sunday mornings (and other times) are still there.
Oh, yes, and let’s not beat ourselves up with unnecessary feelings of guilt. They are an indulgence we should set aside.