“I’m spiritual, but not religious” is a mantra for many. Studies tell us that each successive generation becomes less and less affiliated with a religious community. Along with a host of other indicators, we are moving farther away from communal expressions of faith and embracing internal, individualized ideas of faith. It seems like we are all on a quest to privatize spiritual life to the extent that it has nothing to do with anyone but ourselves. The result is that we are more lonely, depressed, and fragmented than ever.
This is a strange movement for people who read, trust, and know the story of God revealed in the pages of scripture. The very first story in the Bible says that God sees that “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” (Genesis 2:18) God forms community from the very start of things. Abraham and Sarah worship a God who promises that their offspring will be as numerous as the stars and bless the nations. (Genesis 15). Those offspring, as the people of Israel, are a community of faith in a faithless world.
Jesus calls twelve disciples to be a community. Paul speaks of the “body of Christ” made up of many individuals but united in Christ. John’s writings speak of a “beloved community” that, as a collective, manifests God’s love in the world. For Luther we are the “priesthood of all believers.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer embraced the core of faith as expressed in the sanctorum communio - the communion of saints. No matter how hard we try, there is just no way to be a Christian alone, by yourself, on your own terms.
The reason for this is that love is the essence of our God, our faith, and our hope. You can’t love in isolation. To have faith in a God who is known as a relationship – the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” – is to have faith in the presence of others for the sake of others.
It is this reality that brings us to our annual Connections emphasis. On Sundays, September 11, 18, and 25, we will be offering ways that we can connect with one another as we gather to support each other, study together, serve alongside one another, and share friendship with each other. Jesus tells us, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20) Christ is present when we gather and reveal love through one another.
We invite you to connect with God through the connections we forge together. In a small group or mutual service, Christ will meet you. Faith is communal. Spirituality is never private. God is a divine community who is always seeking to draw us together. Connect!
Tim Olson – Lead Pastor
Image from Bob Dmyt from Pixabay