Daily Devotion - Thursday, November 19, 2015
This week all of our Daily Devotions will be reflecting on the sermon that I preached this past Sunday at my church, the First Presbyterian Church of Eustis--a sermon entitled, "Three Chairs." We believe our church has a rich history, a vibrant present and a hopeful future. Not all churches or communities of faith feel that way, though. Over the course of this week we'll be getting to the bottom of how that can change.
In his book The Integral Vision, author, philosopher and teacher Ken Wilber asks an important question:
"Why is it that religion is such a complex, confusing, and polarizing force in the world? How could something that on the one hand teaches so much love and life be, on the other hand, the cause of so much death and destruction?"I've often asked myself that same question. Maybe you have, too. There were times in my youth when I wanted nothing to do with "organized religion." I preferred to find spirituality everywhere but church because, in my mind, church wasn't exactly the place where you experienced God.
What I didn't know then, and what I came to understand much later, is that I was just in the wrong church.
Pastor and author Lillian Daniel reflects on the idea of being spiritual, but not religious--being the kind of person who prefers to feel God in a sunset, rather than trying to find God in a pew. She asks, "Do they think that [those of us who go to church] can't see God in a sunset?" Obviously we can. I marvel at the beauty of Creation all of the time, and I pretty much spend most of my time at church.
The miracle, Daniel writes, is that she can still experience God in church--bumping up against other people who "are just as annoying as I am."
I completely get that. But I haven't always felt like I was experiencing God in the various churches I've attended and/or worked for over the years. What I've discovered over time is that not all Christian communities, churches or congregations are created equal. Some are full of vibrancy and life, and others aren't. Some are trapped in the past, and others are hopeful about the future. Some seem full of the presence of God and others seem completely empty.
But in the end, it's been in the church where I have experienced God more fully, more completely than I ever could have outside of it.
We need to reframe the notion of what it means to be "religious," especially when it comes to being a Jesus-centered community. I think what we should start saying to people who tell us, "I am spiritual but not religious," is:
"So am I! I'm not religious at all--I just happen to love gathering, worshipping and doing life with a bunch of people in my local church who are messy, crazy, and stumbling after Jesus as best they can."
So may you discover a community of faith full of annoying people just like you, and experience God there in ways you could never have imagined. May you fall in love with the notion that religion isn't relationships. May you find a church full of messy, crazy people who stumble after Jesus.