Summary: In support of a drive to collect items for a missions organization: genuine spiritual feeling comes when we deal with the real world and provide food, shelter, and clothing to the needy.
Let’s suppose that this is God’s issue of Time magazine. Someone has sent God a lifetime subscription to Time magazine; I guess you would have to say an eternity-time subscription.
And when God’s Time magazine arrives ... by the way, do you know God’s zip code? You don’t think God has a zip code? Of course He does. It’s 37234. Look it up.
When God’s Time magazine arrives, and if God reads it … oh, now, wait a minute. That’s a dubious proposition, you say, since God already knows what has happened, and has no need to read about it.
In fact, a few of you would argue that He knew what was going to happen even before it happened. You know, predestination, the theology that says, "Whatever will be will be, even if it never happens"! But we’ll not argue that point today.
Just for the sake of argument, when God gets His magazine and wants to learn the news, to what section does He turn? In what is God most interested? What attracts heavenly attention first?
Politics? Oh no, we all know that politics is a dirty business. God wouldn’t be there, would He?
How about entertainment? Gracious, no. In the first place, God is serious. He isn’t going to waste even a precious million years on entertainment. And besides, the language and the nudity in the movies these days; God is of purer eyes than to behold all that. No, it wouldn’t be entertainment either.
Well, how about economics? The nuts and bolts of finance? Would God read with interest, compound interest, the financial section? Oh, but remember that His word says that money is the root of all evil. Doesn’t it? NO… the love of money is the root of all evil. Well, what’s the difference? God is spirit; and we don’t envision His being caught up in money matters, do we?
Oh, look, there’s a religion section. That must be the answer. Surely God wants to know what’s happening in His church. Certainly He wants to rejoice at the latest megachurch. Maybe He wants to prepare thunderbolts to pitch at posturing, preening Baptist preachers attending their annual conventions. It must be the religion section that would set celestial thumbs turning pages.
But theologian Harvey Cox, who first came up with the idea behind this little exercise I’m using this morning, suggests that if, indeed, God does read the news magazines, it is the religion section to which He turns last, last, not first. Our God, you see, is lord of all. That means that all of life is of concern to Him. All of life, all that we do, all that we pour ourselves into, all that we are, is of interest to Him. Not just religion, not just churches and stained-glass windows and robed choirs and preachers and pipe organs, but real life. Life as it is lived on the streets. Life as it touches every one of us in every aspect of our beings.
You see, it has been well said that if our God cannot be Lord of all, then He cannot be Lord at all. If God cannot be Lord of all, then He cannot be Lord at all. And so if we limit God’s concern only to things religious; if we somehow think we can lock God up in the box called church; then we have made God irrelevant. We have kept Him from being Lord at all, because we have not seen that He is Lord of all.
Centuries ago, long before news magazines cut our lives up into little segments and labeled one of them "religion", as if God were not involved in all of life ... centuries ago, the prophet whose writings are found in the last third of the Book of Isaiah ... the scholars call him Trito-Isaiah, or the third Isaiah, though we do not know his name …this great prophet saw that it is spiritually dangerous to be religious.
You heard that right. It is spiritually dangerous to be religious. And the reason it is so spiritually dangerous to be religious is that when our spiritual hormones Kick in, we get religious to the exclusion of being real. We get holy and forget how to be human. We get pious and sickeningly sweet, forgetting what God is really interested in: the whole lives of human beings.
Let’s see how this prophet develops this idea and where it leads:
First, the prophet sees that a lot of people are ready to be religious, they are even eager to be spiritual. But when they are, there is an underlying dissatisfaction. Despite their spirituality, despite their adherence to all the rules of religion, folks who try to practice their faith out here in the stratosphere end up feeling unsatisfied. No amount of religious observance quite gets them what they are looking for.