Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Christianity for Grownups

I once heard a priest say that it was only when he went to seminary that he realized that his Christian education had ended in fifth grade, and only when he was assigned to a parish that he realized everyone else’s ended in fifth grade too. It makes sense, since after fifth grade parents often stop urging their kids to be part of their church, and churches tend to forget about teaching teens and young adults.

The priest’s point wasn’t to argue for compulsory religious education. Rather, he had realized just how immature Christians’ religious beliefs can be.  With secular topics, such as math and baseball and logic, we all know that a fifth grader simply cannot have the education and experience of an adult versed in the topic. But when it comes to studying God, we often limit our learning to whatever in popular culture seeps into the cracks of our understanding.  All too often, what we wind up with is an understanding of God that is part Christmas angel, part strict (and perhaps abusive) father, part distant star, and just a smidgeon of Real. 

No wonder very few of us actually nurture our relationship with God, much less make it primary in our lives!

What do you believe? Not “think”, but believe: we think thoughts but we act on beliefs. We may think “God is love” but be afraid of His punishment. We may think “Jesus is wise” but not invite him into our daily deliberations.  If you really dug into your beliefs, what kind of God would you find there?

God is a person. We get to know people by getting to know them, as well as talking about them.
The easiest way to know God (who is immaterial) is to study God-made-flesh: Jesus. To study Jesus is to observe him constantly, closely, regularly, and to spend time in conversation with him and about him, and to do what he does, especially in his relationship with his father God. We have easy resources: four first-generation accounts of his life and teachings, plus 2,000 years of letters, dreams, dialogues, and prayers, plus the lives of those close to him, in our own time as well as in his.  We have at least 14 spiritual practices that have stood the test of time and have drawn millions of people into intimacy with God through his son.  

It can help to hear why our more simplistic fifth-grade views just don’t cut it.  “Christianity for Grownups” is our fall series, and it is designed to uncover a few of those childish beliefs we may not even realize we hold.  Christianity for Grownups is for everyone whose faith is blocked or stifled, including people who don’t even believe Jesus matters at all. Come alone or invite a friend. I guarantee you’ll have something to talk about when you leave, and it may even actually be God.

I’m glad to be back with my church and am praying to see you soon.

Pastor Elane


Heather said...

I want to come!

Debra Carpenter said...

Cannot say that my education made it to fifth grade, could be lower! But here it is: unless my adult life and thinking connects with a more complete idea of God, I am spiritually alone. And that means whatever distraction, obsession, episode on TV or pedestalled personage has control over my life, instead of God. Not good.
What are the 12 practices??

Anonymous said...

The classics are these:

Practices of abstinence: solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, secrecy, sacrifice. [Chastity is another possibility, though could come under fasting.]

Practices of engagement: study, worship, prayer, celebration, confession, service, submission, fellowship.

Whoops! That's 14!

Anonymous said...

Now corrected to 14 in post. Clearly "counting" should be one of them.

Anonymous said...

From John Ortberg's blog today: http://johnortberg.com/?p=144