December 14, 2015
Years ago I attended a “Christian rock concert” with a number of folks. Two people in particular stand out in my memory. They were really into it! They danced, they yelled, they sang. I hate to admit this but the music was a little too… um… LOUD for me. I know, I know… I’m growing into a curmudgeon. Ask Ellen and she’ll likely tell you that I am related to Scrooge in some way. I’m not normally demonstrative when it comes to public entertainment. I’ll clap along but don’t ask me to get up and sway or throw my arms into the air in exultation. If I like the music and it moves me… well, I can feel it internally. Or maybe my emotions are totally repressed… not sure which.
ANYWAY, the reason I point that out is this: The two folks I mentioned, the ones who were so verbal about their faith and their appreciation about the “Christian” music… Well, they are nowhere in their faith today. To my knowledge neither attends church anywhere. Neither is involved in any small group, or home group. Neither confesses faith in a way that might be recognizable to most Christians. Do you know what I mean? So here’s my question: Was it real? I mean their whole faith thing… was it real? Were they really worshipping Jesus? Were they really immersed in the Spirit? Were their lives being transformed?
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Naturally this dilemma doesn’t just apply to the two folks I mentioned above. No doubt there are some reading this today who were VERY excited about their faith at one time. They attended Christian events, were a part of a regular Bible study, prayed, read their Bibles, maybe even took part in some ministry. But now? Well outside of maybe a cursory involvement in a church on Sunday mornings… Nothing. What happened? Was it real before? Was it?
I can’t tell you how many young folks I have witnessed over the years who have gone away to a Christian retreat or summer camp where they had an experience with God that seemed very real and powerful. But literally within hours of leaving the venue they were back to where they had been. No God, no faith. Was it real? What was it?
Back in the late 60’s and through the 70’s and into the 80’s there was a large movement of folks in our country who became/claimed to be “born again.” They were actively involved in churches and spoke regularly of Jesus and what he meant in their lives. Some of them went so far as to say that “born again Christians” were the only authentic ones, and yet, so many of those folks have fallen away from the faith. And whatever they had has not transmitted to their children. What happened? Was it real? Was it authentic? And if it was, it was “real” and “authentic” what? Was it Jesus? Or was it folks being driven by emotion and getting swept up into a movement?
I find myself confused by all of this for this reason, if we actually meet the Lord of the Universe, can we just walk away? Can we say that knowing Jesus was fun and Holy while it lasted but it doesn’t mean anything any longer? Seriously… can we?
I suggested in church a couple of weeks ago my assessment on why people do not find themselves involved in church or “organized religion.” I think it’s pretty simple. Folks do not come to church because they do not find God there. Think about it. If we had a real sense of meeting God there, I suspect we would go back. And tragically, church people have settled for something less than that for years, decades, centuries; going to church regularly and not meeting God. Don’t get me wrong. We might sing the hymns with gusto; listen to the minister drone on in prayer; be faithfully attentive to the brilliant sermons, and yet not meet God.
I know one thing… God hates it when we go through the motions of worship but don’t pour our hearts and souls into knowing Him. Amos quotes God in chapter 5:21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.”
Richard Rohr a Franciscan Friar said two things that we need to hear: “Many American congregations [are] in effect paying their ministers to protect them from the real God” and that “religion is one of the safest places to hide from God.”
Personally, I find those comments to be a little scary. I know that only about 1/10 of an iceberg is above the surface of the water. I wonder what fraction of our souls are really willing to seek after God on Sunday mornings. Or any other time for that matter. And what fraction is hiding under the surface totally removed from God.
Serious question; do you regularly meet God at your church? Or do the things and the people leading the service do more to distract you than direct you? Or have you never really met God in church and wouldn’t know what it looked like if you did? Yeah, I hear you.
If we do not meet God, it’s not because He’s the one hiding.