Summary: Our world is incurably religious and is filled with people on a spiritual search. We find it easy to talk religion, but our calling is to share our relationship with the living Christ.
We are incurably religious! Wherever you go, you will find that people are religious. We are groping for something we never quite find.
Ride with me up and down Sixteenth Street, here in the city, or out New Hampshire Avenue, past Colesville. The architecture is ample proof that people are incurably religious. Temples, churches, and mosques; Asian, European, and African; speaking Greek, Russian, Syrian, Serbo-Croatian, Arabic, Khmer; accenting their English a dozen different ways. From all over the world there is evidence that people are incurably religious. We are groping for something we never quite find.
Tune in to the TV set with me. One channel offers everything from Gregorian chants to faith healers to political activists. Switch over to Nifty Fifty and watch Dionne Warwick peddle her psychic hot-line. Try a little farther around the dial, and the home shopping channel is pushing new age crystals. Do you agree with me? We are incurably religious.
Wherever you go, people are religious. We are groping for something we never quite find.
I need not mention the bookstores, where it is not only the Bible which is a hot seller, but also self-help books, books about angels, books about life after death, speculation and guesswork galore. And all of it surrounded by a glittering array of goods, from Jesus T-shirts to Holy Spirit bumper stickers to "God is the greatest" buttons for your lapel. Don’t tell me we aren’t a religious people. We are.
But we are groping for something we have not yet found. And we will look almost anywhere, trying to find God. A number of years ago there was a man who was, during his lifetime, both adored and hated, both imitated and feared. He died much too early, a tragic death, and was laid to rest by his followers. They loved him, they cherished his memory, and before long some of them spread the word that he had come back to life. And to this day, because they truly believe that he lives, they worship him.
Do you know who I’m talking about? I’m speaking about Jesus Christ, right? I’m talking about the one whose life and death and resurrection we celebrate, Jesus, right? Jesus Christ? Wrong! Not! No, I’m talking about Elvis. As in Presley. Believe it or not, there are at least 200 people who belong now to something called the First Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Divine. They make annual pilgrimages to Graceland, they sell Elvis T-shirts and publish the New Testament of Elvis. They speak of the day, not far off, when Elvis will return in his pink Cadillac and reward his followers!
Oh, I tell you, we are an incurably religious people. Wherever you go, we keep on groping after God. And never quite find Him.
One of the reasons we never quite find God is that He is ultimate mystery. God is beyond our understanding. Every time we attempt to capture Him in our words, we fail. Every time we think we have packaged God in our ideas, we find that something doesn’t work.
Just think of a few of the puzzles you and I deal with:
· Is God one or three? Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One in three, three in one. What exactly does that mean and how can anybody explain it? Mystery.
· Who made God and when did God start? That’s what the kids in the after-school program keep asking me. They’re not satisfied with my response that God always has been and always will be. They want to know how old God is? That’s a mystery.
· If God created this vast universe, with its millions of stars just like our sun, then are we alone in the universe? Could there be other planets like ours, filled with living beings? And, if so, are they too made in the image and likeness of God, free and capable of sinning? And again, if so, has God sent them a Savior? Has God acted to redeem them too? Maybe someday we will invent instruments capable of looking at the vast distances out there, but until that time, all those questions are mysteries too.
· And the problem of evil, the fact that absurd and terrible things happen, for which there seem to be no explanation. I stand at the grave of a young person, an innocent bystander, the victim of a hoodlum’s bullet, and I ask why? There seems to be no answer. The playwright complained very pointedly, "If God is God He is not good; if God is good He is not God." I don’t stand there; I think I know a little more than that. But I do understand the complaint. It lies in the mystery of God.
Friends, on this Sunday, devoted to celebrating the fullness of God as the Trinity, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we just have to stand in awe before Him and see that for all we know, there is much more that we do not know. For all that we understand, there is much more that we will never understand. God is ultimate mystery.