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Religious experiences: The day I nearly met Jesus in Cardiff
My lack of religious experience at the City Temple in Cardiff
"Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened up to you," we are told in the Holy Book. Back in my years of searching for spiritual enlightenment and the answer to God, the universe and everything, I'd found the door of a certain evangelical Christian congregation's place of worship very much open.
Miraculous healings but not for me
I'd heard these tales of miraculous healings, of people who threw away their crutches and walked, of reformed hardened criminals and cleaned-up drug addicts; and all from finding salvation in this church. I needed to find out more and went inside.
This is what I found: I remember it well, the friendly faces of the flock, their welcoming handshakes and beaming smiles. It all seemed so well-organised and orderly, yet homely at the same time.
They certainly looked like they'd found God, so I took a seat and joined the faithful for the service. Perhaps I'd become a born-again Christian too?
Well, the pastor took to the stage and after telling us how wonderful it was to see us all there, he asked us to close our eyes and pray. I can't remember what the prayer was but it certainly got results, for the next thing we heard was him telling us that Jesus was there, in that very building, on that very same night, right here in Cardiff.
Doubtful, you might think, but whether he was right or not, I wondered what had brought such a crowd together? There are very many reasons why people turn to religion and today we have a vast selection of faiths to choose from, including all the new cults and sects, which for some reason or other usually begin life in America.
They then come over here like so many things in today's culture, like burger bars, baseball caps and rap music. But I'm not condemning these movements out of hand or comparing religion with fast food; there are undoubtedly many many people who benefit greatly from their beliefs, but I do think we need to watch out for what we are getting involved in.
By the way, CJ Stone has a story about some spiritual healing he received from one of these organisations, run by no less a divine personage than the Archangel Michael, who is Jesus and the Maitreya all rolled into one! It's a good yarn so I hope he tells you all about it someday, but for now I'd better return to that night I was telling you about, so back to church we go.
The preacher's voice took on the best American-style tone as he went on to explain that Jesus would enter the heart and soul of any brother or sister out there, who would sincerely welcome the Lord. He added that Jesus, who was there he reminded us, would come to us if we desired, and that he would take away whatever troubles we had, that he would become our closest friend and that he would never let us down.
He said if any one of us wanted this, then could we raise our hands, and having all sorts of serious problems in my life at the time, it sounded too good to be true but I raised my hand.
Praise the Lord!
"Praise the Lord," I heard, "we have one brother who has been saved."
"Oh, no," I realised, "that brother is me!"
"And another one, and another," I heard the pastor exclaim. "And a couple over there, two more brothers and sisters have welcomed the Lord Jesus into their lives, Hallelujah," he continued in full religious fervour.
Obviously by my action I had set the ball in motion for Jesus to enter the lives of others in the congregation, and as the numbers grew, I heard the pastor ask all those who had accepted the Lord Jesus (by raising their hands) to come to the stage at the end of the service.
After reopening our eyes and some more words and songs of praise, all of us who had supposedly met Jesus that night, went to meet his Earthly representative down the front in that Welsh place of worship.
"I'm overjoyed that you've welcomed Jesus into your life," the good preacher told me, shaking my hand like he was trying to shake it off." But how are you feeling now?" he asked me.
Actually, I was feeling very let down, I was feeling conned, I was feeling unwanted, especially when I looked at all the others who were raving about how they could feel the presence of the Saviour and the Holy Spirit's touch.
There was one bloke jumping up and down excitedly. He looked like he was on something and he was, he was on Jesus!
I answered the servant of the Lord by telling him the truth, that in reality I felt no different, that I'd not felt Jesus enter me or take away my problems, that I was sincere, but that now I felt cheated, but he wasn't listening, he was still on some evangelical high and failed completely to acknowledge what I was telling him.
So, what did it all mean? Didn't Jesus like me for some reason? I'd been led to believe he was the Saviour of us all, so why was I left out? Were my sins so great?
No, it was more a case of Jesus not being there at all, unless you count whatever or whoever was in the minds of the chosen ones.
I shook some more hands and made a few polite "it's been really good to meet you," type remarks but I was acting. Really I was glad it was all over and that soon I'd be out of there.
I was in dire need of spiritual comfort after all that and found it in the boozer next door. The Holy Spirit for me came out of a bottle and out of the barrel. Cheers!
Footnote: First published in Big Issue Cymru No 114, August, 1998
© 2008 Steve Andrews