Summary: This week the texts seem to revolve around the idea that you can’t be "religious" but not "spiritual". It sounds like that tired line, "I’m spiritual but not religious". In the Gospel reading, I think it is interesting how Jesus heals both someone who wou

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Three in One who has come to call sinners home.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Up to 10 percent of the world’s population that does not attend church on a regular basis describes itself as “spiritual, but not religious.” The term actually seems to come out of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1970’s as AA was trying to explain that although a belief in a higher power was required, a strict orthodox view of a god of any sort was not. It has never been an officially adopted line of Alcoholics Anonymous, but is has spread like wildfire in our culture.

The website “Letters from Leavers” chronicles the letters of several people who have left the church in order to, in their minds, pursue spirituality without the trappings of religion. Their letters are hardly impressive and don’t really appear to be anything new. One letter thanks the Holy Spirit for calling them out of church, because religion is a man-made institution. Another complains of a church that must be wrong because it simply doesn’t agree completely, in every way, with what one person believes. This idea of a person being spiritual, but not religious, seems to show it self again and again for what it is – a fraudulent statement, a euphemism, a kiss-off line like “why don’t we just be friends?”

These kinds of people give winking glances to ideas that they like from Christianity and other religious sources, but are careful never to have too much faith – careful never to get too involved. These are people like the mourners in the story of Jesus, people who when confronted with a faith that would actually change their outlook on life, laugh and turn away.

But there is another segment in our population that seems troubling, a segment that seems troubling to God, and should be especially troubling to us. You see, on any given Sunday it’s not very likely that the “spiritual but not religious” people are going to join us. But today, in this sanctuary, there is perhaps another sort of person – the “religious, but not spiritual.”

This is the kind of person that God is talking about in Hosea when He says, “I desire the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” This is the kind of person of whom Jesus is talking about when He says, “Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

This is the kind of person like 5 year old little Annie Mandelbaum. Little Annie was having dinner with her parents and a guest, a prominent reporter. The reporter noticed that she had some brussel sprouts on her plate, pushed off to the side. “Do you like brussel sprouts?” the reporter asked little Annie. Annie replied “Oh yes, I like brussel sprouts.” and continued to munch through dinner not once touching one of the green cabbage like vegetables. After dinner, the reporter, noticing that the brussel sprouts had not once been touched he asked the little girl, “I thought you said you liked brussel sprouts, how come you didn’t eat any?” The little girl replied, “Oh, I like brussel sprouts, just not enough to eat them.”

How many of us can identify a time in our lives when we perhaps played with one of these ideas? Can you remember a time when you complained about not being given the “spiritual freedom” you wanted in order to skip this event or that or not read or not pray? Can you remember a time when you thought that church was just about showing up, even if your mind was someplace else? Can you remember a time when you were “spiritual, but not religious?” Can you remember a time when you were “religious, but not spiritual”?

You see, each of those conceptions is lame. If you are spiritual, but not religious, you still need Jesus to come and wake you out of your sleep. If you are religious, but not spiritual, you still need be given the faith and courage to reach out and touch the hem of your God.

Congress recently passed a bill into law. The bill states that any veteran of a United States branch of the military has the right to have two uniformed military personnel to fold and present the flag, and the right to have “taps” played on the bugle at the end of the service.

There is a problem, however. Buglers are not common musicians anymore. It’s hard to find someone to fulfill this role given as a “right” to veterans. In order to allow the bill to continue being fulfilled, a new “bugle” has been developed. This bugle is actually no bugle at all, but an mp3 player which belts out a pre-recorded performance of taps, fashioned into the shape of a traditional bugle. The bugle player turns the bugle “on”, places it to his or her mouth, and beings to “play” taps.

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