I would like to tell you this morning about a family.
The couple aren’t married, but have been together for about 10 years. He’s 40 next month & his partner is three years younger.
Both are very intelligent- in fact, he’s got three degrees – all from Glasgow University.
They have two beautiful daughters – one is 8 & the other is two.
They’re a lovely and loving family and are very happy with life.
The parents aren’t church members, nor have the girls been baptised.
Who are they?…………
One of my sons and family!
(It rather proves that I’m a lousy minister – when I failed to involve my off-spring in the kirk!)
Two surveys were published over the last two weeks.
The more recent of the two, from ComRes, found that only 6% of British adults are practicing Christians.
The other Survey suggests that 53% of people are explicitly non-religious.
Unfortunately for the church, the people who continue to claim that Britain is a Christian country, and claim to be Christian, are also those who show little compassion for people with disabilities, as the repeated failure of the Work Capability Assessments show.
However, the Rev Norman Smith, who is Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Mission and Discipleship council, has commented: “The Church of Scotland is well aware that formal church membership has declined, yet as our own research shows, the role of spirituality in people’s lives remains important. As a church we are not driven by numbers, although we are committed to sharing our faith through our words and our deeds.”
That’s an interesting word “spirituality”
It’s not religion – that, if anything else is spirituality in a formal & organised setting and context.
All of us have a spiritual dimension to us, whether we recognise or acknowledge it or not.
In general, it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all. People may describe it simply a deep sense of being in touch with the “inner me”
I believe my son and his family have that, without religious commitment- as is the case with many other people and families.
But….should there not be more? A farther step toward commitment?
I heard a deeply moving story last week.
It involves a retired servant of Queen Victoria. She had been a housemaid in the Royal Household for more than 40 years, but now was living in squalor and poverty in a insalubrious area in London….and she was dying from TB.
She was known as a woman of simple but deep faith.
John Wesley got to hear about her, and paid her a visit.
Talking to her, praying for her, comforting her, in her squalid slum, he noticed something pinned to one of the walls.
It was a banker’s draft (an old form of a cheque) – it was made out for hundreds of ££ – and was a personal payment from Queen Victoria herself!
The retired servant hadn’t realised what it was nor its worth, because she couldn’t read or write.
Here she was, living in abject poverty and squalor, when she could have been living in comfort during her final days.
So many people aren’t fulfilled, because of their religious and faith illiteracy.
In our New Testament reading today, Jesus tells his disciples – and remember they didn’t always fully understand what he was getting at – that true faith can be divisive…… that even amongst families (and we started hearing about mine, remember) there can be different outlooks and interpretations of life.
He’s effectively saying that some may stand apart from others because of their convictions and how their faith is articulated in how they treat others.
Jesus is telling us he demands a commitment that just might cut across families ties, that just might cut across at how others see us, a commitment that says as a Christian you are different in this world.
Jesus senses in his disciples as he is now headed for Jerusalem and the cross that altitude that they were not taking his claims seriously in their lives.
Jesus sensed an attitude of curiosity among his followers.
And that’s not nearly enough.
He wanted love, loyalty, obedience, a sense of commitment, but they were merely being curious, seeing what this poor country preacher was saying and doing.
So Jesus tells them about the obedience, the commitment, the loyalty, he demands from his followers. A commitment that could and does even cut across families lines.
Does he really want that kind of commitment from us?
Isn’t “spirituality” a good enough option?
Does it have to be so radical and decisive.??
Well, it certainly takes conviction.
Think, for example, of Paul:
In his letters, Paul uses the terms, “I know,… I am sure” many times. Paul had a conviction.
Paul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus by Peter Paul Rubens
We heard earlier the story of Daniel. He was forbidden to pray to Jehovah.
Violation would result in being thrown into the lion’s den.
It wasn’t a tough decision for Daniel to make for he had already made some strong convictions concerning his relationship to God.
He kept praying. He was thrown into that den.
Daniel in the Lions’ Den – Peter Paul Rubens
That takes courage – the inner strength that God provides – the fortitude that comes through trust in him.
The inner strength is available for every one who is willing to call upon the resources of God to give them the courage to stand by his or her convictions.
This is the kind of life Jesus is calling us to live: to react in the way that puts God first.
It is a life that even sometimes calls us to stand apart, to stand alone maybe even in a family.
Jesus calls us to live for Him. He calls us to a life of loyalty, a life of commitment.
That’s the major difference between the fashionable concept of spirituality and true faith
For we know that Jesus is truly the way, the truth and the life for us…..all of us….now and forever.