Spiritual Not Religious
I think we have all heard the statement, and maybe used it ourselves, “I think of myself as spiritual and not religious.” Now, as a person of “religion,” I have sometimes thought of that statement negatively, as an excuse people use to not participate in organized religion. One of my favorite books in high school was entitled “How to be a Christian without being Religious” by Fritz Ridenour, a Lutheran. If you read the Gospels carefully and critically, we see that Jesus’ incarnation, his coming among us, was not, as most Christians think, to start a new religion, but actually to save all religions from the laws (Torah) that separated sincere people and kept them divided.
Jesus came among us to proclaim that “religion” had come to an end and that all people could, as they accepted his message, form one human family caring for each other and God’s Creation. In a sense, when you hear the criticism that the religions of the world are responsible for the world’s divisions and wars among people, those critics are absolutely correct. The religions of the world have subtly left the intention of their founders and adopted rules and ways of being that cut them off from others, rather than unite them with each other. Take Jesus’ words in the Gospel today
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Humankind seeks peace as the world does, by uniting the “Us” against the “Them.” And religions, for the most part, have adopted the world’s way, making enough rules to make it difficult for many people on the “outside” to find community within them. Christian religion, knowing full well that Jesus gave only two commands: to love God and neighbor and gather to celebrate Eucharist (thanksgiving) together, adopted so many rules “from biblical teaching” that effectively make it impossible to find unity. These rules, or disagreement with them, have led to countless divisions in Christianity alone. Instead of following Jesus’ commands and gathering together in thankfulness for Jesus’ presence in our midst, we make rules, and if I don’t like your rules, my friends and family will leave and make our own community and find rules (torah) we can agree with.
This is why Jesus, in his last talk with his disciples before going to the Cross, says
I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
Now over 2000 years later, the “cat is out of the bag.” There are thousands of religions, and many divisions in each one. How are we ever going heal or eliminate religious fervor/division and get back to our spiritual roots? I think the followers of Jesus are most responsible, guided by the Holy Spirit, to bring about a spiritual revival across all religious faiths, denominations, or people who are searching or even not-searching for God. The Holy Spirit can remind us again today of what Jesus said and taught about the need to end religion and gather in the Spirit with all people of good will. We must love Jesus, love Jesus, and let go of the fear that since Jesus is no longer with us physically, causes us to gather only with those we agree with or feel comfortable with.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
The Holy Spirit, the Advocate, is the one “called alongside” (parakletos) to defend the accused or the victim of accusation. Anyone who seeks to bring down the barriers of religion and build unity will be victimized and accused of being anti-religious, disrespectful of holy laws, and being relativistic. This is not to say that “one religion is as good as any other,” but that all human beings are already related (ligament) to one another, the root meaning of the word religion. So: What would Jesus have us do now? I think Jesus would have us begin to live the Gospel vision of unity seeing all people as our brothers and sisters in this world, loving and affirming the good in them, forgiving them when needed (as we have been forgiven) and letting go of the religious barriers we’ve grown up with. This I think is living the life in the Spirit Jesus desires us to live. All human beings are invited to gather together in Eucharist: giving thanks for God’s love, the gift of life, and all of Creation.
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
|The Reverend John Smith, Vicar|
5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE
|The Most Reverend Julio Murray, Archbishop and Primate, IARCA|
|The Right Reverend Silvestre Romero, Bishop of Guatemala|