Saturday, January 21, 2012

Nothing to lose; Everything to gain

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

There is a video coursing its way across the Internet in which a young man shares a poem.  The poem is an expression of his apparent disdain for religion in general while he maintains his devotion to Jesus.  For this man and many others like him, Christianity has been “hijacked” (for lack of a better term) by religion and has been turned into something more burdensome than liberating. 

I will agree there is a “religionist” element in Christianity that has turned the missional Church into something more like a political movement that seeks not to “love our enemies” but rather to destroy them; not unlike the “religionists” of Jesus’ day.  Yet I cannot agree with the young man’s premise that religion itself is inherently dangerous.  Misunderstood and misappropriated, perhaps, but not dangerous.  In fact, I would come closer to suggesting this man’s expression comes up substantially short in understanding the true heart of religion.  More to the point, I see a very dangerous, spiritually risky short-sightedness that even now continues to undermine the Church and what the Body of Christ is called to do and to be in a “lost” world that cannot – or will not - find its way into the Light and Life that is the Covenant of God in Christ.   

The word “religion” itself has its root in the same Latin word that defines “ligament”.  That is to say, the basis of religion goes far beyond defining a particular set of beliefs or practices.  There is a connection that is inherent to religion, a connection that extends far beyond the individual, a connection this anti-religion concept fails to grasp; perhaps because of scriptural ignorance, but almost certainly because of pride and misguided independence that refuses to allow itself to be held accountable by others.  Religion is the “ligament” that connects the “members” to the greater Body of Christ, as expressed by St. Paul in his 1st letter to the Corinthians: “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body; so it is with Christ” (1 Cor 12:12).

To try and disconnect Jesus from the connective tissue that is religion altogether, then, is disingenuous at best and dangerous at worst.  This “movement” that has actually been around in some form or fashion for decades is a lot like the “house of sand” Jesus warns His disciples about in Matthew 7:26: “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house until it fell – and great was its fall!”

Jesus cannot be disconnected from His divine nature – IF – we believe He is the essence of the Holy God – IF – we believe He is “God in the flesh”.  At the risk of repeating myself, Jesus did not spring up from nothing.  He has His own “root” as the “vine” from which branches must grow (John 15:1-2) and for which the Holy Father serves as the “vine dresser” who prunes – or cuts away altogether – that which no longer has the life of connection; that is to say, “dead wood” that no longer bears fruit. 

To say we can love Jesus without being “religious” is to suggest we can follow Jesus without being connected to others; without being connected to the Greater Purpose to which we as “members of the Body” are called.  It would suggest Jesus follows US on our own chosen paths.  To suggest such a thing would suggest Jesus has no connection to the Creator God, the Jealous God, the Judging God, and yes, the Redeeming God who has a divine purpose and will of His very own – all coming from the so-called Old Testament.

We must embrace the inherent religious connection that displays itself in YHWH’s call to Jonah – a call that was in direct conflict with Jonah’s will!  Jonah was called to preach repentance and new life to the people of Nineveh; ENEMIES of Israel!  No Israelite in his right mind would offer hope to those who have brought nothing but fear and terror to Israel, and yet here is Israel’s GOD calling an Israelite forward to offer divine forgiveness and redemption to Israel’s enemies! 

We see the religious connection in St. Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthian church in which even as St. Paul calls the people of the Church to DIS-connect from that which binds them against divine will, he is still calling them to a religious connection that transcends “personal”.

We see the religion being restored when Jesus begins His ministry by calling forth those future apostles – BUILDERS OF THE CHURCH – who will get “religion” back on the right track.  We must understand these apostles are not being called into a “personal relationship” that is the end itself; we must understand their “personal relationship” – your “personal relationship”, my “personal relationship” - with Messiah as a MEANS to a much greater end than we can possibly fathom! 

It is the common Journey that connects us not only to one another but to Messiah and ultimately to the Holy Father!  It is the Journey that has its root in the Exodus when the shackles of bondage had been destroyed and the people of YHWH set free for that Journey.  Our religious connection takes us to the Table of the Holy Communion which has its root in the Passover, that incredible moment in eternity when Sin and Death received their own “death sentences”. 

It is the common Journey “members” can endure only by being connected to the “Body of Christ”; the connection that helps to ensure we survive this incredibly challenging Journey to the Promised Land.  It is a Journey fraught with danger as described in Matthew 24, the journey in which “many will fall away … and betray one another”.  It is the journey in which “many false prophets will rise and lead many astray”.  But it is the journey whose end alone will determine who will be “saved”, those who “endure to the end” (Matthew 24:9-14). 

You see, salvation lies not in the beginning, according to Jesus, but in the end.  The Journey must come first, and it must be endured; but this is only possible if we are connected – connected not only to one another but connected intimately to Jesus the Messiah … and connected ultimately to our Holy Father.  It is the Journey which will require much, a Journey that seems to ask much more than we can see to receive; but this is the entire point of “religious” faith. 

We have nothing to lose that will not be lost sooner or later – and everything yet to be seen to be gained!  It is the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is Eternal Life in the Holy Father’s Kingdom by the path set forth by the Holy Son.

No comments: