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Archive for February 6th, 2017

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READINGS: Isaiah 58:3-9a  1 Corinthians 2:1–2 (13–16)  Psalm 112: 1-9  Matthew 5:13-20

Today’s Epistle reading is about spirituality.  Spirituality has been a hot topic now for several years, as in, I’m not religious, I’m spiritual. It used to be, “I don’t believe in organized religion”.  A friend of mine, a pastor like to quip, They haven’t seen us.  Either the upshot is when spirituality is so talked about it’s about “doing my own thing” and thinking it is God’s thing.  This is fleshly spirituality.  True spirituality is not about the self, but God.  The self is a pretty nasty place apart from God.  Going my own way and saying oh, It’s the Lord’s way. As the Apostle taught, true spirituality is about the Lord, the Holy Spirit.  True spirituality is Holy Spirit-uality.  I was asked once What is the work of the Holy Spirit?   I gave the correct answer from the Bible:  to preach and teach Christ, as our Lord said, from John 14: 26

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

My questioner’s response was a resounding: Oh.  She was obviously disappointed with the answer and went on to describe a healing service in a Pentecostal congregation in which the pastor laid hands on her, and she told me she felt an electric charge go through her body.  But the Bible, God’s Word never says if you lay on hands for healing, you will feel an electric charge in y our body.  When we go against God’s Word then we will be forever seeking the next electric charge.

There is a difference between fleshly spirituality and true spirituality. Here are some comparisons:

  • Fleshly spirituality is me shaped, me formed, me centered, that is spiritual experience shaped, formed and centered; whereas Christian spirituality is cross-shaped, cross-formed, cross-centered, that is, Christ shaped, Christ formed, Christ centered.

  • Fleshly spirituality is by aspiration, what I can do for a spiritual high. Christian spirituality is by revelation through the Word of God, preached, taught, administered in the Sacraments. It is not by aspiration but inspiration

  • Fleshly spirituality is ever looking for the next spiritual experience, whereas true spirituality is ever looking to the Lord in the depths of sin, death, and power of the devil, where and when He has done battle and won. It seeks the Kingdom of God.

  • Fleshly spirituality boasts in one’s spiritual accomplishments, whereas true spirituality boasts in the Lord.

  • Fleshly spirituality is the spirituality of the selfie, always looking at the self, inward, but true spirituality is about looking outward to the Lord and looking out for our neighbors.

  • Fleshly spirituality is always about getting something from the Lord to further the spiritual buzz: “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it? Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure and oppress all your workers”, whereas true spirituality seeks to hear the Word of God and does it to serve and love our neighbor. 

  • Fleshly spirituality is all about one being rich in the spirit, whereas true spirituality confesses we are poor in spirit and seeks only to learn Christ in the Holy Spirit.

So many folks really believe in themselves.  Now, we are to give thanks to the Lord for all His gifts and talents for us but the center of belief is not me.  One time we were properly taught to doubt ourselves in that regard, and believe in God.  Now we are taught to doubt God and believe in ourselves. And as G.K. Chesterton said,  “The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.” 

It’s been my observation over the years now of being a pastor, a person who has a fleshly spirituality, he or she will go on and on about their spirituality.  I have heard stories about so many spiritual jolts and fantasies and sadly, it is all self-justifying because looking inward they no longer look to the One who has justified us on the Cross, received as sheer gift, grace. I just heard a very intelligent man in hospice tell me all about his spirituality for a hour and a half.  I barely got a word in edgewise, let alone the Word.

This leads us to a fairly obvious physical aspect of both salt and light is they are silent.  They work and do their thing without a word of their own. Later in the Sermon on the Mountain, Our Lord teaches about fasting, praying and alms-giving: St. Matthew 6: 1-21 (This is the Gospel Reading for Ash Wednesday).  He repeats the same critique  about these spiritual disciplines for His comparison to the hypocrites who by their ‘spirituality’ want to draw attention to themselves, make a splash, be heard (see St. Matthew 6: 2, 5   and 16).  Fasting, praying and alms-giving are kind of silent in the world yet they do their thing and work.

Funny thing about salt and light:  we take them for granted and yet without them life would cease.  For instance, light is literally food for everything that is green. Plants feed animals and men. Without light, we die.  Even if a person is blind, she still needs light.  Salt is a necessary nutrient, without it we could not live.  . Yet, we usually do not give thanks to the Lord  for these His gifts.  We, the Church, are just that:   salt and light. The Church, His disciples work and do their thing without a word of their own, but God’s Word alone.  They are life for the world.  They are to be taken for granted and yet without this salt and light, there is death. 

 I find this troubling and humbling:   I know I do not want to be taken from granted.   I expect to get something out of this religion deal.  I want to be known for my words, my brilliance.  I/we think that by our liveliness in worship, life, etc. we can make for life but that life is  finally just made-up. With that tirade of Adamic sin, I/we forget:  we need salt and light as well, especially the apostles and the apostolic Church.  The salt and light we need is His Word, the Word made flesh, the One who said on that mountain, “You are…”,  not “Be all that you CAN be”, but You are

Jesus makes it plain in the beatitudes:  it’s not about your best life now, but your blest life now and forever. We are blessing of the salt and light of His Word for the world. In His Word of Law and Gospel,  we realize that you and  I  are not  the life, the life of  and for the world. When we sin, the Law of God is real spiritual buzz kill. This is reason in all those me centered ‘spiritualities’ the Law of God is not taught and so sadly they are least in the kingdom of heaven.   

We are Lord’s “thing” in the world without a  word of our own, and our words are to  reflect His Word.  After all we will not be heard for our many words (see  Matthew 6:7) His Word is food. (see Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4)  We are not self-made men and women.  We are not self-redeemed.  Without His Word we die and the world is dying to hear His Word.  Many do not want to hear.  They will despise it. It does not matter.  Will the light be blown out?  We do not know.  But we are to let it shine.  If we get away from His Word, we become tasteless and are to be thrown out and trampled upon. (Matthew 5:13)  Lord, without You we can do nothing.  Keep us steadfast in Your Word.  Be Thou our help to speak Your Word at the right time. In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

 

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