The question I asked in Bible Study to start discussion was “What is the most effective faith killer?” We were looking at the OT lesson for the day (Exodus 3:1-16), and there are a bunch, but what I wanted to build from was phrased by the group as “lack of experience of God”. And there are a bunch of different ways that can come about, but the one I wanted to hone in on was when religion slips into an insider code or a tradition not understood. That is the religion of the Sadducees.
This sermon might be a little rough, but I think it ponders an important point for the church. Has our religion slipped into a barely understood tradition? Is it a code that helps us ID our tribe, but has little to do with our daily lives? We need that experience of God. As Luther would say about baptism, “we daily arise to live before God in righteousness”. Is your religion world weary? Let a little fear of the Lord into your heart.
The first part of this sermon is a little snarky-er than usual. Sometimes you read something that just makes you want to say “well, what did you come out to see(Luke 7:24)”. Or in most cases it is more akin to desiring to say something like – well, I can’t refute your experience, and a bunch of people are harmonizing with you, but c’mon, grow-up, actually crack a book, or stop beating up on straw-men and turn to the real sources.” Beating up on American Mega-Church culture and feeling burned by what is obviously a 10K gold earring destined to turn your lobes green as if it were Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin or even Wesley shouldn’t be taken seriously.
But we are reaping the 30 years of that culture in the American church, so we have to. 30 years of shininess distracting from the deep wells. 30 years of assuming the gospel. 30 years of emotionalism (what the reformers called enthusiasm). And we have a bad hang-over or have trouble walking a single block, let alone picking up the breastplate of righteousness, because we are so out of shape. So we have to take it seriously. But that makes me snarky.
After getting that out of my system, the answer is the same as always. Ad fontes, returning to the sources, listening to the voice of Jesus. And the first word that needs to be heard is the gospel proclamation of the resurrection. Can these bones live? Absolutely. Because He is the resurrection. This is what Jesus does.