Spiritual and Religious

“I’m spiritual but not religious.” I’m sure you’ve heard people say that; I have. It’s become increasingly common among those who claim “None” as their spiritual identity on religious surveys. They are growing in numbers, especially among the rising generation who are not carrying on with the faith traditions of their parents and grandparents. They aren’t atheists or agnostics. They believe in some sort of spiritual Presence. They may even pray and practice spiritual disciplines such as meditation and fasting, but they have no use for religious institutions. They are, as they say, “spiritual but not religious.”

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Luke 12:40-53 (10 Pentecost 2019, Proper 15C)

Anyone who has done a home rennovation project knows that you have to do destruction before you can do construction.  Demo before renno. Sledgehammer before paint brush. Most projects begin with a lot of dust and destruction, leaving a big mess that often makes you wonder whether this was a good idea in the first place. So it is with the new creation in Christ. There must be death before resurrection.  We must decrease; Christ must increase, and that doesn’t suit old Adam one bit. He would prefer a superficial paint job, a coat of religious shellac over teardown and rebuild.

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O Rachel, Weep No More

The violence of the past weeks in Gilroy, El Paso, Dayton, and other places in the world, brought to mind the horrors of September 11, 2001. I recall that morning vividly. It was a Tuesday, and we were scheduled to host our circuit pastors’ meeting at our congregation. We were all in shock. We talked, we wept, we prayed. Many of us called our congregations together for services of prayer that evening or the next day.

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Luke 12:22-34 (9 Pentecost 2019, Proper 14C)

Anxiety. We all have it to one degree or another. Sleepless nights, panic attacks in the middle of the day. Racing heartbeat. Inability to focus on any one thing for more than a few seconds. Anxiety is symptomatic of our culture. The leading over-the-counter medications are for sleep and stomach disorders. Anti-anxiety meds are among the leading prescription drugs. We are an anxious society, an anxious people living in a constant state of anxiety, and it’s eating us up from the inside.

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A Deep Wound

Early Sunday morning, after my morning prayers, I always look at the intercessions of the church for the divine service for that day to add any last minute petitions. As I was doing so yesterday, I saw a news notification for yet another mass shooting, this time in Dayton, Ohio. The day before had been El Paso, Texas. The week before was Gilroy, California.

I’m sad. I’m weary. I’m angry. I’m sickened. How long, O Lord? How long?

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Luke 12:13-21 (8 Pentecost 2019, Proper 13C)

Havel havelim, says Qoheleth. Vanities piled on top of vanities. Emptiness. Nothing. Vapor. All is vanity. Wealth, fame, celebrity, power…all of it. Vanity. Nothing. Chasing after the wind.

You build a business and a fool takes it over and drives it into the ditch of bankruptcy. You amass a fortune and are buried next to a poor man, and your children and grandchildren squander every one of your hard-earned pennies. Vanitiy of vanities.

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Slowing Down

I’ve incorporated the psalms into my daily prayer practice in a more intentional way. The monastics pray the entire psalter weekly or monthly; I’m content with two to three psalms per day; four if they’re short. There are 150 psalms in the psalter (151 if you use the Apocrypha), so that will keep me going for a couple of months. This week, I hit Psalm 119.

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From Convention to Conference

It’s good to be home again. After a week of rain, humidity, and heat in Tampa, FL at the synodical convention, it’s good to be home. I’ll be home just long enough to wash my clothes, prepare a sermon, and head down to Irvine for the last of the Higher Things Concordia conferences. All things considered, I’d rather be at a youth conference than a synodical convention any week of days.

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