I hope everyone is having a great Sunday!
What a beautiful day for worship, for Father’s Day, to welcome the Masons to our worship service and for a baptism.
Here’s today’s sermon – enjoy!
2 Corinthians 5:6-17
Walking By Faith
“From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
This morning’s scripture comes to us from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth. He wrote this to remind the Corinthian people that, as human beings living in an earthly time and space, we still belong to God. And Paul urged the Corinthians to remember that their outward expressions of faith should be directly influenced by their inward relationships with God. Something new was happening, Paul pointed out. A Jewish faith that relied so heavily on tradition was being replaced by a new understanding of faith; one where the Gospel of Jesus Christ conquered mortal law, where love conquered evil and where resurrection conquered death.
It was scary for the people that Paul was writing to and spending time with to envision these changes. But Paul assure the community in Corinth that something incredible was happening and that the changes that they were seeing unfold around them were simply creating a path for something new, for something incredible; for a deeper relationship with the divine. “Everything old has passed away,” Paul said. “See, everything has become new!”
I am reading a book right now called, “Christianity After Religion: The End of Church And The Birth Of A New Spiritual Awakening.” It is by a woman named Diana Butler Bass, who describes herself on her website by saying the following:
I am an author who explores the dimensions of religion and spirituality in today’s world.
I am a teacher and speaker working to educate both people of faith and the general public about the importance, the depth, and the complexity of religion and spirituality in history, culture, and political life.
I am a person of faith, a Christian, who attempts to live the generative, inviting, inclusive, and transforming practices at the heart of Christianity that can heal the world.
This book talks about the fact that something new is happening within the Christian faith. In a way, I think that Diana Butler Bass is addressing a lot of the same issues and challenges today that Paul addressed throughout his first century travels. Change is scary; change is difficult; but sometimes – oftentimes, as she points out in “Christianity After Religion” – change is inevitable. A lot of people think that the church as we know it is changing. But Bass argues that it is not the church that is changing; it is the world that has already changed. And it is the church that really needs to adapt in order to survive – and to thrive – in the years to come.
“I am spiritual, but not religious.” This is the new mainstream catch phrase that people who sometimes shy away from the church are using to describe themselves. Some of them go to church on a regular basis; many of them do not.
Many mainline church leaders are critical of this particular description. Many of them think it is just a popular bandwagon that people are jumping on – and that they are using this phrase and description as a way to justify their lack of attendance on Sunday mornings, their lack of commitment to boards and committees and their lack of financial support to churches. And, to be fair, much of their criticism comes from a place of fear. To be “spiritual, but not religious” means that people do not necessarily need the institutional church to connect with God. Church pews may eventually be empty on Sunday mornings, Wednesday night Bible Studies will fizzle out and Saturday night suppers will be few and far between. If you start the think about the consequences of this catch phrase, of this movement of Christianity, the future begins to start to look grim.
But Bass argues in her book that the new changes that are happening around us are not something to fear – they are something to embrace, something to be excited about. We are simply opening new doors and laying down new paths so that we can walk by faith in this time and space. As a human race, we want to have a deeper connection with God. “To say that one is ‘spiritual but not religious’ or ‘spiritual and religious’ is often a way of saying, ‘I am dissatisfied with the way things are, and I want to find a new way of connecting with God, my neighbor and my own life.’” Bass says. She thinks that we want more than traditional church structures can give us. “The whole religion business is displaced by renewed attention to experiential Christian life,” Bass remarks. She is pointing out that the problem is not that people are less engaged in their faith – the problem is that they want to be more engaged and there is currently no space for people to do that.
I would argue that it is possible to be both spiritual and religious. In fact I think people have spiritual and religious needs that are separate and distinct from one another. People need to find a connection with and feel strengthened by the divine (spiritual), but they also need to feel a connection with and be strengthened by people, in communities, here on earth (religious). And I think if churches and church leaders focus on addressing both needs in people’s lives, the church will both survive and continue to thrive in the years to come.
So how do we do that? Interestingly enough, I think Paul addressed this very question 2,000 years ago when he wrote this letter to the Corinthian people.
“So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,” Paul said. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
This was an intentional statement. Paul did not say, “Walk by religious structures or institutions.” Paul said, “Walk by faith.”
What does it mean to walk by faith? I think the key to growing thriving Christian communities full of strong individuals who want to feed both their religious and their spiritual needs lies in this statement. I think the key to growing thriving Christian communities full of strong individuals who want to feed both their religious and their spiritual needs lies on this path of faith that we are all called to walk on.
Here are some of the ways I think that it means to walk by faith:
• To walk by faith means to engage in ministries that we feel called into. To walk by faith means to focus on mission activities that speak to us personally so that we are part of something that gives to meaning to our lives.
• To walk by faith means to see the church as more than just a religious structure. To walk by faith means to see the church as a safe place where we can worship, pray for others, be prayed for, learn and grow and feel strengthened by the community around us.
• To walk by faith means to think about our faith seven days a week, outside of the church walls and relevant to our day-to-day lives. To walk by faith means that faith does not have to look traditional and rigid – it can look however we want to make it look.
• To walk by faith means to see God in the ordinary – and watch it become extraordinary.
• To walk by faith means to think about the ways that God is still speaking in our lives, that God is still working in our lives and that God is still active in our lives.
• To walk by faith means to inspire and encourage the people we meet along our journeys – both old and young.
• To walk by faith means to love instead of hate, accept the people around us instead of rejecting them and to live out the Gospel instead of just quoting it.
• To walk by faith means to know that our faith will change as the path around us changes. And to walk by faith means to know that even though the scenery may change, God’s abiding love and grace will remain constant – always.
I believe walking by faith will give meaning to the lives of the people in our churches and church communities and feed their spiritual and their religious needs. I believe that if people have meaningful church and worship experiences, they will want to come back, again and again. I believe that walking by faith will save our churches from the decline that is happening around us. I believe that walking by faith will help this community continue to heal, to strengthen and to grow. I believe that walking by faith will help us see visions and move forward.
What does it mean to you to walk by faith?
“For we walk by faith, not by sight … there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
Let us embrace the newness that are happening around us. Let us allow ourselves to be both spiritual and religious. And let us walk by faith – together.
Thanks be to God!