Red: Week 2 - Daily Reflections October 12, 2015
Welcome to the second week of our daily reflections inspired by our current sermon series—“Red: Understanding the Hard Sayings of Jesus.”
If you would like to watch the video of the sermon I preached yesterday on Mark 3:28-29 where Jesus says that the only "unforgivable" sin is when you sin "against the Holy Spirit," you can do it right here. But be sure to come back!
All this week we are going to be focusing on the Holy Spirit of God—the revelation of God scholars and theologians refer to as, the “Third Person” of the Trinity. And, more specifically, we’re going to be thinking about all of the many ways that the Holy Spirit of God is present and revealed not only in Creation, but also in each of us.
A couple of years ago it was widely reported that the fasting growing religion on America was “None.” In other words, more people than ever before were identifying “none” when they were being asked about their religious preference. What these “Nones” essentially are saying, however, is that the old structures that contain religious experience weren’t working for them anymore. The way many of these people describe themselves is by saying, “I am spiritual, but not religious.”
What the “Nones” crave is direct experience, beyond words and concepts. They desire un-mediated access to the Divine without the structures of institutional things like churches, congregations, denominations and the like. Honestly, I don’t blame them. Sometimes church can really get in the way when we are yearning to feel the presence of God’s Spirit.
Years ago, when I was working in youth ministry, I was part of a group that organized monthly worship gatherings for teens. At one of these gatherings a worship band was playing and most of the kids were either listlessly singing along, or not singing at all.
But there was one kid who was feeling it. He was on his knees in a corner with his arms raised, worshipping in joy and reverence. One of the volunteer leaders, a middle-aged woman with a reputation for being a killjoy, came up to me bristling. “You need to tell him to stop doing that,” she said through clenched teeth. “He’s distracting the other students.”
I am ashamed to say that I eventually did what she asked. I was young, and she held a lot of influence in my circles of ministry. If I could go back to do it differently, I would have told her to go “pound sand,” and that her institutional way of thinking about faith was actually keeping her from experiencing God. Instead, I went and told the young man what she’d said. I’ve never forgotten the hurt I saw in his eyes.
As Christians we need to be asking ourselves, “In what ways have we institutionalized our faith, and created barriers for not only ourselves but other people to experience the Spirit of God in the world?”
There’s not a thing in the world wrong with being organized and having structures when it comes to our common life as a church. But we should constantly be on guard that the organizations and structures we create serve as a means of conveying grace, and revealing God’s Spirit in the world, not as a barrier to experience.