Two men were seated near me at a lunch meeting recently, and I couldn't help overhearing their conversation. I wasn't paying too close attention until I heard one of the men say, "I'm not a religious man, but I am deeply spiritual."
My ears perked up. This supposed dichotomy between religion and spirituality has long interested me. For most of history these were two sides of the same coin, yet in our day "spirituality" has become a catch-all term to define faith divorced from the stifling effects of institutionalized belief. Consequently, it's now a term that means nothing other than whatever the speaker wants it to mean.
My friend at the table went on to describe an experience of seeing something beautiful in nature and the feeling of awe which came over him. That was his "spiritual" moment. That was his connection with something larger than himself.
Now, I consider myself a tolerant man, and the last thing I want to do is deny anybody their right to follow God any way they choose. Yet, this man's statement bugged me. I mulled it over all afternoon and finally figured out what rubbed me the wrong way.
His approach to faith does not reach out to others, extends no farther than his own
nose, and costs him absolutely nothing. It is spirituality practiced solely for his little trinity of "Me, Myself, and I." While it may leave him feeling inspired it makes no impact whatsoever on the world he has to live in. If that's what "spirituality" means, I want no part of it.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "Grace is free, but it's not cheap." In the church we know that. We work hard at maintaining a presence for teaching and service. We give our time and energy to programs and ministries that make a difference in our own lives and in the life of this community. And we give money we could be spending on ourselves to make sure it all continues.
Soon you will be hearing and reading a great deal about stewardship at FCC, and our need to give more, and what we could do if our giving increases, and what might happen if it doesn't. And (I'll go ahead and say it) some here give quite liberally, and others are pretty stingy, and we all need to do better this year. But through it all, remember this: I'm proud to be a part of an institution willing to pay the freight of a better world.
Next time I see that guy at the table I need to tell him that.