I'm a lover of tradition. Of doing things over and over, that have meaning beyond words. It is interesting to me how much people in the church confess to loving "the Gospel," and "the Bible," and how much they want to hear the old truths, and to sing the old carols, and to be told "the old, old story, of Jesus and His love."
One of our chaplains here at Covenant Living showed a video at Vespers that celebrates the tie between science and religion. Two professors doing very up-to-date things in science are also life-long believers in God. They were being interviewed by the very cheery minister of the nine-campus River Valley Church just south of the Twin Cities. I asked the chaplain to tell us about that church and his desire to go there with his wife and two grown children, and two grandchildren. He told about the church people welcoming them, and when they came back several weeks later, being remembered by them, and how the minister recalled their grandchildren's names. I thought, people come to church and want to be known, and loved. Simple as that!
Much more follows to be sure, but that was the real story. Recognition, old-fashioned love, more than the sermon and the music and the decor.
There's a hankering in people's hearts for something that is beyond words. Something that creates inside them a feeling, a sense. Of being wholly together. But not just with other people. With God. The invisible God. The One Who we know, comes unseen in His Spirit. The "Spirit of the Lord." The Holy Spirit.
Long ago Jesus told Nicodemus what He needed. "Nicodemus, you must be born again," You must allow a new Spirit to be born in you. It's not about theology. It's about welcoming God into your heart, so that you become a new person.
That's what people want. And, if they don't find it, they go away, looking for it elsewhere.
It is popular among church leaders today to say young people are abandoning the church. They're not finding there what they're looking for.
Maybe it's something in us that they don't find. Maybe we've lost something we once had. Could it be the Spirit? Are we afraid to let the Spirit come and take over our lives? Do we think the Spirit will be "too much" for people? Too much joy, too much wonder, too much power, too much love? Do we fear appearing unbalanced, too emotional, too committed?
Jesus told the disciples they would do even greater works than He did. Could that be true? Could our prayers bring healing, or joy, or new life to people? Perhaps hope in their hearts? A deep presence and assurance that they are in touch with the Living God, with Jesus in His Spirit.
I think people want that living thing. That Life to stir within theirs. That will bring them back that sense that once they had, perhaps when they were very young.
You know, this is Christmas time. The trees, the lighted candles, the sounds of the great organ, are already there, in church. The greatest tradition there is on earth. Of God coming. Coming to church, coming to you. In the mystery of this great celebration.
Simple things evoke it. Music. Carols. One has been going around in my Molly's head, and heart. It's called The Friendly Beasts. "It's my mother's favorite carol, she says.
Jesus our brother, kindly and good.
Was humbly born in a stable rude
And the friendly beasts around Him stood;
Jesus our brother, kindly and good.
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried his mother up hill and down;
I carried his mother to Bethlehem town."
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.
What wonder. So simple. It brings back the beginning - of Jesus. And the beginning of Molly, when her mother sang to her.
It's Christmas time. Time for the simpler things. The great, yes greatest tradition. Bless you, these mystic days.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES