Thoughts for February 5, 2017

Do you remember the day John Lennon said the Beatles were more popular then Jesus Christ. It was 50 years ago, March 4, 1966. I remember the statement. Lennon then went on to clarify how the statement was being used wrongly. In the attempt to nullify the words they strangely became even more visible.

I was in Costco the other day. The isles were full of snacks. Two women were talking. Their carts were full of multiple kinds of items to be devoured at the upcoming Superbowl party. One woman said we will be having about 50 people over for the game. Her next statement, I wish we could fill the house like this for our Bible study. Some have said that football has become America’s religion.

Today is Super Sunday. The New England Patriots will take on The Atlanta Falcons. This game will be broadcast in 223 countries around the world.

What is your religion about?

Please read the following Scriptures:
• Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12)  •
• Psalm 112:1-9 (10)  •
• 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16)  •
• Matthew 5:13-20

What is your religion about?

Isaiah cuts to the chase. He puts all other words aside as he talks about mixing religious acts with secularism. He says this process ultimately yields a sense of meaningless rhetoric. He, that is Isaiah does not mince words. Then, then, then when one’s religion loosens the bond of oppression, cares about the hungry, the homeless, the naked, then your light shall break forth like the dawn he says. The question, “what is your religion about?” is answered in one fell swoop as his diatribe builds toward a crescendo of hope. Religion does not live in isolation to the world around it.

The Psalmist catches this euphoria. Praise the Lord. Happy are those who fear the Lord, who delight in the commandments. There is a sense of excitement about those who walk in righteousness. Strangely however, this positive behavior, these good works also create a negative backlash. Both those who claim to be religious and those who are self seekers try to say life is about something else. The nay sayers would say, you don’t get it. You have really missed the boat. Enter, President Trump. What I did to gain my wealth was totally legal. It may not have been right, but it was legal! Is this what Isaiah and the Psalmist are saying. There is something more then legal that needs to happen so religion can be lived with a spirit of celebration?

As I began reading the words of the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 2. He says he didn’t come with words of wisdom. He came merely to find the life of Jesus being lived out in the community of believers. Paul talks about a kind of secret knowledge and then as if to contradict himself he implies there is nothing secret about it at all. It is a knowledge that informs a life style, a spiritual lifestyle. This knowledge points to being gifted. This gift produces a life of power to be who we were intended to be. It is demonstrated by the life of Jesus being lived in the life of a believer. When the question about religion is raised there seems to be something about prayer that lifts us above the activity of personal acquisition or personal ratings in life. Indeed, if there is anything secret, it is our sense of being that the believer understands what “pure” religion is about. There will be nothing secret about doing acts of justice, acts of wisdom, acts of rightness. These acts will reveal the secret of inner motivation.

My mind drifts to a story told by a preacher many years ago. He said he was at home and he heard voices in the kitchen. When he called out the voices stopped. He walked into the kitchen and did not see anyone. He left the kitchen. As he did the voices began again. He turned, went back into the kitchen. He looked everywhere. All he saw was a pot simmering on the stove. A stew was beginning to smell very good. The water was gently bubbling around the potatoes. The carrots and other vegetables were darkening in color awaiting the perfect drop of spice to bring out their flavor. He walked back out of the room. He then stopped and began to listen. Quietly he stood, hidden out of sight. Then it happened. Two grains of salt were deeply involved in an argument. The first spoke clearly. I am not going in there. The second said, but that is our purpose. We are salt. We are to enhance the flavor of the stew. The first grain of salt, referring to the salt shaker the two of them were in said look, we have this beautiful glass house, we have a beautiful silver dome, why can’t it be enough? We are the center of attention. Everyone coming into the kitchen will see us. If we go in that stew we will be lost. The other grain of salt said, somehow I think that might be what we should be about. Our destination, our destiny is not about living in a glass house, it is about adding flavor, adding a special presence into our world.

This story, as simplistic as it is, reflects the words of Jesus as quoted by Matthew. We are the salt of the earth.

Perhaps Matthew in his own way is asking the question. What is religion about?

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, the non football enthusiasts may be home listening to some old music, who knows maybe John Lennon will be revived. Perhaps you will be attending the Super Bowl party at your church, (primarily of course, just to catch the Super Bowl commercials.) Today will be over. Tomorrow is around the corner. The question will still need answering. What is your religion about?

A prayer.

Lord perhaps this may be the wrong question. Perhaps it is more about bringing your presence into the lives of those around us instead of looking for ways to just be religious.

My mind rushes with thoughts of all the worlds needing to be saved. My mind swirls in confusion as so many run by crying out an invitation to go here, to go there, to show your love. I only hope that someone from over there will come here.

Lord we are a people with genuine hope, with genuine care. But why is there so much fear that we may be missing the boat?

Lord, today I place these words into the airwaves, guide them I pray. Use them to bring meaning and direction to someone not only asking the question about religion but who really wants to know something more personal, something more about them self. Enrich the world because one more person looks less at religion and sees it is acceptable to do the works of religion.

All around us people talk about spirituality as if spirit can be separate from the actions of spirituality. Lord I commit the readers of these words to you. May our religion bring a spiritual depth that causes others to experience you and your presence overflowing into lives of others. I pray this in the name of the one who so perfectly revealed you to us. I pray in Jesus name Amen.

A musical answer to the question, What is religion about?

Ladysmith Black Mambas Swing Low Sweet Chariot

They’ll Know we are Christians by our Love

In Christ Alone

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