“R” is for Religion (March 16, 2012)

…Opening To…

Therefore, we pray you, Lord, forgive; so when our wanderings here shall cease, we may with you for ever live, in love and unity and peace. (Gregory the Great, from The Hymnal 1982)

…Listening In…

Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day. The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything. (Acts 2:41-44; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “R” is for religion. Finally, you say – a real word! Huzzah! So, the word “religion” gets a bad rap in modern parlance. The idea that it’s groovy to be “spiritual” but totally square to be “religious” is partially to blame. But also to blame are the things people do and say in the name of “religion.” In a recent book, Brian McLaren tries to reclaim the word religion by making up a new word – “de-ligion.” This new word tries to take up all the negative press that “religion” has been getting in recent years because of one thing or another. I think it’s a great new word – but, sadly, I don’t see it catching on.

And this is too bad, because “religion” is a great word for a pretty spectacular concept. (Fair warning: a lot of people have talked about what I’m going to say next, including McLaren, and me in this video. Sorry if this is repetitive.) “Religion” comes from the same Latin root as the word “ligament.” A ligament connects parts of a joint. I’m sure you’ve heard about football players tearing their ACLs – well, the L in ACL is “ligament.” The “lig” in the word comes from the Latin “ligare,” which means “to bind.”

Now look at “religion.” See the “Re-” at the beginning of the word? Yep – that means “again.” So, at the etymological level, religion is about reconnecting or connecting again. Now let’s bring God in. Religion isn’t just about connecting with God, but about re-connecting because God has always been connected with us. The church has discovered that the best way to reconnect with God is to do so in the company of other like-hearted people, thus the gathering of the church comes into being.

So let’s reclaim the word “religion” for its fundamental purpose – that of reconnecting with God. I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot like “spirituality” to me. Groovy.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you have always been connected to me. Help me deepen my connection to you by reaching out for support from others who are also working to deepen their connections. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, counting myself blessed that you would choose to make me the person I am and love me into the person I am becoming.

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