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WORKS-DRIVEN RITUALS


Every year a great throng of people make pilgrimage to the Shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico, a site where supposedly the Virgin Mary once stood...however unlikely that is. They go there hoping to get her attention, and to get her to intervene for them with her son Jesus. They crawl on their hands and knees for a quarter mile, and enter and light candles, one for every friend who has died, in hopes of reducing the amount of time they spend in purgatory. It is a pitiful sight.


Every 12 years a multitude of Hindus gather at the convergence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. They make a 6-week journey for the largest religious festival in the world. Naked holy men lead the parade into the icy waters, and the people follow because one of their holy books declares they will go to heaven if they do. Another book of theirs says even if they have committed a hundred crimes, they will be forgiven as soon as they touch those waters. It’s a pitiful sight, and all the more because I know of a book that says we can indeed be forgiven no matter what we’ve done, not because of some silly ritual, but because of a heavenly sacrifice: Jesus on the cross! Forgiven, not because of stepping into water, but being plunged beneath the crimson flood of the blood of God’s Son who died in our place!


Along the shore are "shaving booths" where every hair is removed from their bodies, including eyebrows and lashes...they gather them and throw them into the river because one of their books says for every hair they throw in, they will live a million years in heaven.


Some at this festival cut out their tongues, believing if they sentence themselves to eternal silence, they will gain heavenly favor. Others stare at the sun until blind to appease their gods. It’s a pitiful sight of works-centered religion.


(From a sermon by Jerry Shirley, A Pitiful Sight, 4/29/2011)

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