Pure and undefiled religion

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.    ~James 1:27

I have been turning this passage of scripture over in my head the past couple of weeks.  James encourages us to religiously take care of the widows and orphans in their distress.  Religion has got a bad reputation as of late.  Recently I have heard many folks say, “Christianity is not a religion its a relationship”.  I understand their sentiments and why they say this.  Christians can get caught up in meaningless rituals and ceremonies which bring no pleasure to God.  Read Isaiah 1:11, and you see God fed up with people offering meaningless sacrifices to appease God when all he really wants is people’s hearts.  But there is religion which is pure and undefiled, and we should not stop doing this.  Porch de Salomon continues to religiously take care of the widow, the orphan and those in distress.  It was interesting the past few weeks to contrast this religion with the pomp and circumstance of the Semana Santa activities held in town.

We had a group working with us from Gainesville, Florida.  They helped us build a home for Silveria, a widow and her family in a rural village called Xiquel.  They also split their group up and helped us begin work on Isabel and Mauricio’s house.  Mauricio is a young man with kidney failure.  The porch is helping him pay for his treatment until he can get a replacement but Isabel and Mauricio also needed a better place to live and some relief from their distress.  What a great opportunity for us to practice some religion!

Another special event happened this week.  Juana, Silveria’s daughter had her baby boy!  The team got to see the baby and congratulate Juana with some much-needed gifts of clothes and food.

This team also participated in dedicating a finished house for another widow named Juana Sajvin.  She lives up in Santa Catarina.  Her house is way up the mountain.  And if you remember from a earlier post called beasts of burden quite a bit of heavy labor was involved getting material up to this job site.

The next week was “Holy Week” in Guatemala.  The week leading up to the celebration of Easter.  Panajachel gets pretty crazy during this week.  The town fills with tons of people and there are many “religious ceremonies” happening throughout the week.  On Good Friday they make alfrombras or carpets for the parade route that carries a float of Jesus and Mary to walk over.  It is a symbolic ceremony held all over the world.

Again I think on the passage of scripture from James and wonder if this is the type of religion that pleases God?  I do see beauty in the processions and the ceremony and our family enjoyed looking at the carpets.  I suppose the real question is, where is my heart?  Because I can religiously do many things in the name of God and it is nothing but a clang of a symbol or a noisy gong without love.