Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Have you heard someone say, “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual”? I have and it is usually said in a discussion about belonging to a church, denomination or religious group/organization. Many people in today’s society are asking, “Why should I belong to a church?” Well, being “religious” or belonging to a church is the subject for a future discussion; but today I would like to reflect on being “spiritual.”
There is great pluralism in religion and of beliefs today; all sorts of churches, cults and movements; tension between different religions; and, an on going debate between believers, atheists, and agnostics … “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual!” What do people mean by that statement? I believe that the “I’m not religious” part clearly means that he/she/they do not belong to an organized religious group or church. However, the “but I am spiritual” part is not so clear; it brings to mind a plethora of possibilities from Yoga, to crystals, to extraterrestrial life, to ancient mythologies, to the “great religions”, to meditation, to being in touch with one’s inner-self, to UFO’s and on and on. Spirituality is no longer the realm of religion, as even some atheists profess to be spiritual or in connection with the universe. Despite the broad secular understanding of spirituality, I am of the opinion that all humans seek a spiritual connection with an absolute entity, which is admittedly or deniably God.
I wish to move with broad strides, leaps and bounds; thus leaving out considerable and debatable material. Therefore, I would like to look at two definitions. From the Encarta Dictionary we find spirituality being defined as being “connected by an affinity of the mind, spirit, or temperament;” and affinity defined as “a natural liking for or identification with somebody or something.” I like these definitions because they lead to what I believe is the human’s desire to connect with God the Creator. I believe this holds true even for atheists, thought they deny the existence of God.
Scripture tells us that when mankind was created they were created in the image and likeness of God; however, God is spirit and possesses no physical body. Therefore, that of mankind, which is in the image, and likeness of God must be of spirit or the soul. So then, could we not say that genetically mankind or humanity possesses a natural affinity for God and desires to be connected in spirit with Him? If this is the case, then being spiritual is the activity of being connected to or in communication with God. Furthermore, a spiritual activity or spirituality is often referred to as a discipline (the root of discipleship) that involves the performance of various exercises to establish and maintain a line of communication between the individual and the absolute entity.
For many of us Lutheran Christians, “spirituality” or spiritual exercises may seem foreign; they have not been part of our praxis or piety and may appear to be too enthusiastic, Pentecostal or charismatic for many a demure Lutheran. However, many of the exercises that one might perform, as part of a spiritual discipline, are traditionally “Lutheran.” I draw from the writings of Dr. Martin Luther, Luther’s Works (41:148ff) as he describes a Christian holy people. Luther outlines seven marks by which these people are defined: possession of the holy Word of God; the holy sacrament of baptism; the holy sacrament of the altar; the office of the keys exercised publicly; the fact that it consecrates or calls ministers, or has offices that it is to administer; prayer, public praise, and thanksgiving to God; and the holy possession of the sacred cross.
I propose that we make better use of the resources that we already possess: to devote ourselves to daily reading of scripture, daily remembrance of our Baptism, weekly partaking of the Lord’s Supper, weekly confession and absolution, active participation in the ministries of the church, daily prayer, and standing firm with Christ in the face of opposition from the world. Through our practice of these spiritual disciplines, we will become more “spiritual”, draw closer to, and be in connection with God.
In Christ’s service,