Monday, September 26, 2011

Smorgasbord Spirituality

From Messiah Lutheran Church's October 2011 Newsletter

When I was a child, I used to love going out to eat with my grandparents at a local Scandinavian restaurant that served a “smorgasbord.” If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s basically a buffet. Sort of like going to the Golden Corral or other similar eateries. You can pick and choose what you want to eat. Don’t like broccoli? Forget about it. Move on to the baked beans! Don’t like ham? Who cares? Have a slab of roast beef! Or, if you are really feeling rebellious, skip everything and head right to the desserts. There’s pie, cake, pudding, cookies, strudel … whatever suits your taste buds.

Many people act as though their spiritual lives are like bellying up to a smorgasbord. They prefer to pick and choose whatever they want to believe. They sift through all the various world religions and select that which resonates with them as good and proper or that which makes them feel good. And this is not just limited to those who do not classify themselves as Christian.

A recent article in USA Today stated
The folks who make up God as they go are side-by-side with self-proclaimed believers who claim the Christian label but shed their ties to traditional beliefs and practices. Religion statistics expert George Barna says, with a wry hint of exaggeration, America is headed for "310 million people with 310 million religions."
"We are a designer society. We want everything customized to our personal needs — our clothing, our food, our education," he says. Now it's our religion…
More people claim they have accepted Jesus as their savior and expect to go to heaven.
And more say they haven't been to church in the past six months except for special occasions such as weddings or funerals. In 1991, 24% were "unchurched." Today, it's 37% .
Barna blames pastors for those oddly contradictory findings. Everyone hears, "Jesus is the answer. Embrace him. Say this little Sinners Prayer and keep coming back. It doesn't work. People end up bored, burned out and empty," he says. "They look at church and wonder, 'Jesus died for this?'"…
Barna laments, "People say, 'I believe in God. I believe the Bible is a good book. And then I believe whatever I want.'"
The article goes on to feature one individual who combines elements of religions that are mutually exclusive, yet still somehow calls herself a Christian. It also talks about others who have jettisoned their faith in Christ altogether after drifting in and out of assorted religious traditions.

You and I probably know someone like the folks mentioned in this article. How can we communicate to them the richness and depth of true Christianity without leaving them “bored, burned out and empty”? How can we make clear to them the exclusive nature of the claims of Christ (e.g. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6) without coming across as a self-righteous prig? How can we explain the difference between works-righteousness and the righteousness of Christ that is received as a gift of grace? How can we tell them that all that they truly need (whether they recognize that need or not) is truly found within the fellowship of the Holy Christian Church? How can we show love and mercy to one another so that those outside the Church do not look at us and say, “Jesus died for this?” These are questions we need to carefully ponder as we seek to proclaim Christ and his life and forgiveness to those who are “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to the hardness of their heart” (Eph. 4:18) … those who are “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14).

All efforts to have some kind of spirituality apart from Christ alone are futile, because they are man’s own efforts to seek God and find him … or efforts to avoid his Law which condemns them. True spirituality acknowledges that we are spiritually dead and can do nothing to save ourselves, to draw closer to God, to find him somehow (Eph. 2:1). True spirituality acknowledges that God is the one who has sought us and found us, like the shepherd who goes off to find the one lost sheep (Luke 15). True spirituality is pure receptivity … receiving that which God offers to us as a gift because of the death and resurrection of his Son (Eph. 2:8-10; 1 Cor. 4:7).

In Christ’s service and yours,
Pastor Onken

1 comment:

Robin Dugall said...

this was good when I read it in the "old school" newsletter and good when I read it on your blog...see ya soon!