Struggling with the Spiritual but not Religious.

clericalSometimes, often really, when you are dressed in a clerical shirt people feel the need to let you know what their religious beliefs are. Often when that happens I hear about how they grew up with one particular faith background, had something happen, or just fell away from participating in a faith community and now as an adult they are “spiritual” but not ‘religious”. As they share their story I listen, because each one is unique and different in how they have been led away from participating in a community of believers. For some it is loss, death of a spouse, child, or parent, others disagreed with the views that they heard in church, or from a specific religious leader, some just got fed up with all the hypocrites, and the list of reasons goes on and on, because each person works so hard to justify in their mind why they are no longer going to a church and growing in faith and fellowship with other. There are many fine Christians in the world who do not go to church, invalids, people staying in hospitals and extended care facilities, those who work routines keep them from being able to worship with others over the weekend where they are at. Those people are not stomping through the same bog of disbelief as those who claim to be more spiritual than religious.
Each time I hear those words another name is added to the prayer list, because I can often hear in their voice the longing to know/belong to a house of worship where they are participating in relational ministry. Ministry that feeds them heart and soul, just as we expect participation in the Lord’s Supper to strengthen our faith against the temptations of the devil, this world, and our sinful flesh and its selfish desires. Participation in a faith community helps us to continue to turn our efforts and focus back to Christ and see that all that we have is possible through Him and because of His sacrifice for us.
Part of the discussion often comes around to how is it that I can rely on a God that …… which is where they share the incident or loss that has helped to build a wall between their ability to believe and the Grace, peace, and Mercy that comes from God. Sharing personal struggles does not really help here; it just gives them another reason to support their argument. Reminding them that I know through my Baptism the Holy Spirit has given us the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of eternal life and salvation does not mean anything for people who are not looking with joy from the trials of this life to the promise of the next. So many are caught up with just being content with what they have now, what they can earn and provide by their own efforts that they do not see the gift that comes to us from God in all that we have been and will be provided. Nor the Hope that there is so much more ahead of us.
For them the confidence and surety that God provides all we need, the assurance we receive through the words of the Lord’s Prayer is just one step beyond what they can rationalize and accept. Many of those who are “spiritual” and not ‘religious” seem to get locked into the vision that all they need to do is live a life where they do not lie, cheat, or steal and they are able to be “good enough” They are the new tribe who seeks just to follow their abridged version of the Ten Commandments to avoid sin, and avoid acknowledging the need for a Savior. Unfortunately for them this is not so, and they are missing out on so much because they do not walk with and grow in faith and fellowship with a body of believers.
But for the Grace of God I would be walking that same route. Each time I have faced a challenge, a disappointment, stumbled and felt mired in sorrow and hurt the Holy Spirit has brought people into my life, and the lives of those I love to care for and lift us up. Those who walk in spirituality and are not part of a congregation miss out on the availability of others who know and are aware of our failings and troubles and willingly reach out to care for and help us. As easy as being available to provide us with a ride to get someplace, share lawn/yard care equipment, help us to plan a party/anniversary, provide meals when we are mourning or ill, or have to care for a sick loved one, and all of the other challenges we can be faced with while we are spinning around the Earth. Taking the time to spin around in circles, on a merry go round, doing summersaults, all can lead us to be a bit dizzy and confused. Walking through life spiritual and not religious, just spinning around keep a person dizzy and confused, separated from confessing that God has done everything to save us from sin through Jesus Christ and to bring us together as members of His Church.
Continuing to be aware of the places where the Holy Spirit is stretching us to reach out and care for those who are outside our church communities provides opportunities to witness to people who have fallen away, or were never even brought up knowing that God loves and cares for them. There is so much that we have to explain about how we pray, why we pray, what is happening in the liturgy of our worship services that brings us comfort because it makes sense, but to the “spiritual” not “religious” they are just words without meaning, the rush of the wind across the marsh of their religious emptiness.
In more ways than I can count over the past two years the community of believers that I have participated in at Holy Trinity, Yonkers, and the Old Cadet Chapel, West Point have provided opportunities for my faith to grow and be strengthened, for my family and I to know the joy, comfort and peace that comes from the Lord. Where two or more are gathered we know that Christ is present, where two or more are gathered we have the possibility for demonstrating the love and care that God has for His creation. As we continue to care for each other, those we know in and outside of the church we are able to break down the walls that those who rely solely on spirituality as their guide to rest in comfort. The opportunities that the Holy Spirit leads us to care for and extend ourselves so that they are relieved, encouraged, and cared for may be what help them to exclaim like the father, to “Help them to believe, help them with their disbelief.”

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2 thoughts on “Struggling with the Spiritual but not Religious.

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