Category Archives: 2015-02

Pastor’s Pen for February, 2015

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. (James 1:22) When I was in my teens, I did a lot of bowling.  My father bowled in a league, and he shared his enthusiasm for the game with me.  We sometimes would go bowling as a family activity.  Eventually, I joined one of the teams in the league my father bowled in, and for much of my high school career, I bowled every week. But when I went off to college, I no longer had the time (or money!) to bowl every week.  I went from being an dedicated bowler to being a person who still enjoyed the game and knew how to play it, but one who didn’t actively participate in the sport on a regular basis.  I no longer consider myself to be a bowler, but merely an afficianado of the game -- someone who has happy memories and good feelings about the sport, but who no longer actually bowls. You may have undergone similar changes in your life.  In your younger days, you may have been an avid baseball player, skater, dancer or musician, but as time went by, your involvement in those activities diminished and eventually ended. Unfortunately, some people’s spiritual life follows a similar trajectory.  While aging will naturally impose a limit to our ability to engage in vigorous athletic activities, the same is not true of spiritual practices.  Prayer, worship, bible study and meditation are not activies that require the vigor of a youthful athlete to perform.  In fact, it is often those who have lived a long, fruitful life and experienced more of life’s difficult and painful challenges who get the most out of regular spiritual disciplines.  They find that, beneath the religious ideas they learned in childhood which seemed so bizzarre and unbelievable, lies a level of profound experiencial truth that they never knew existed before.  Words that meant little to their minds now speak eloquently to their hearts. Sadly, there are also those whose only religious activity ended in their childhood, yet who still consider themselves “active” Christians and church members.  They live in a state of denial, refusing to acknowledge that their behavior exposes the delusion of their claims.  It’s as if their nostalgic memories of childhood or their private religious convictions could exempt them from any responsibility to express their faith in any outward way.  It’s as rediculous as me still claiming to be a “bowler” even though I haven’t touched a bowling ball in over 30 years! My purpose here is not to insult anyone who may have drifted away from the church, but to challenge them to emerge from their state of denial.  Christian faith has never been some private, inner world of spiritual ideas, but a way of life that engages us in a distinctive community that seeks to demonstrate God’s love for those whom the rest of the world has rejected.  It is not a community that exists only in our minds or on some abstract spiritual plane, but which requires tangible participation.  Bowlers must bowl.  Christians must be part of making the Body of Christ visible in the world.  Athletes may be forced to give up their sport due to age or disability, but Christians do not.  All over the world, there are elderly and disabled people who find ways to participate in Christ’s body in tangible ways, whether through their giving, by ministering with cards and letters, or by hosting group meetings that others may attend. Participation in a Christ-centered community -- not abstract ideas or pious feelings -- is the hallmark of the Christian faith, just as a bowler is defined by rolling a ball down the lane.  A bowler may throw a strike or a gutter ball, but at least there can be no doubt that that person is really in the game.  Participation is how we tell if a person is a genuine follower of Christ or just an afficianado, uninvolved and standing on the sidelines.                                     -- Duane