Tag Archives: Spirituality

Sermon (based on Luke 12, verses 49-56)


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.






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Denmark and God

God enjoying a renaissance – from “The Copenhagen Post”

Despite pews sitting empty and churches closing due to dwindling membership, a significant number of Danes still say they believe in some kind of higher power.

According to a YouGov survey undertaken for Søndagsavisen newspaper, 41 percent of people believe in a god while a further 15 percent said that they wouldn’t reject the existence of God.

Peter Lüchau, a sociologist and lecturer at the University of Copenhagen, said that religion is not something Danes are overly vocal about.

“Danes are surprisingly religious, but it’s not something that most Danes actively relate to. Religion has become a set of norms that is not flaunted and something that people have with themselves and their families,” Lüchau told Søndagsavisen.

It also appears that Danes become more religious the older they get. Fifty percent of people over the age of 50 are believers, compared to 32 percent of people aged 18-34.
Lüchau said that the survey results showed that religious and spiritual thought is once again gathering some momentum after experiencing a bit of a national crisis.

“In the 60’s we expected religion to become extinct. People believed that if we became effective enough and had enough science, we could explain everything,” Lüchau said. “But slowly people came to believe that science does not hold all the answers and now we have reached that point again where people look to religion for answers to the fundamental questions in life.”

The survey also revealed that women are more religious and more likely to believe in life after death than men. Some 45 percent of women believe in God, compared to 37 percent of men, and 47 percent of women believe in an afterlife, compared to just 26 percent of men.

The survey also found that people were more religious in the rural areas of the nation. In the Copenhagen and northern Zealand regions, just 33 percent of people said that they were religious, compared to the around 45 percent of people in Jutland and on Funen

The news follows in the wake of Statistics Denmark’s revelations in 2013 that while 79.1 percent of the population of Denmark are members of the Church of Denmark (folkekirken), just three percent of the population regularly attends church services.

Moreover, a TNS Gallup survey for Berlingske newspaper in October showed that one fifth of the Danish population are atheists.

According to a 2012 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 16 percent of the world’s population – 1.1 billion people – are atheists, making atheism the third-largest ‘belief’ on the planet.

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Religious people are thick!

Thicker brain sections tied to spirituality: study
NEW YORK Mon Dec 30, 2013 7:14pm GMT

(Reuters Health) – For people at high risk of depression because of a family history, spirituality may offer some protection for the brain, a new study hints.

Parts of the brain’s outer layer, the cortex, were thicker in high-risk study participants who said religion or spirituality was “important” to them versus those who cared less about religion.

“Our beliefs and our moods are reflected in our brain and with new imaging techniques we can begin to see this,” Myrna Weissman told Reuters Health. “The brain is an extraordinary organ. It not only controls, but is controlled by our moods.”

Weissman, who worked on the new study, is a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University and chief of the Clinical-Genetic Epidemiology department at New York State Psychiatric institute.

While the new study suggests a link between brain thickness and religiosity or spirituality, it cannot say that thicker brain regions cause people to be religious or spiritual, Weissman and her colleagues note in JAMA Psychiatry.

It might hint, however, that religiosity can enhance the brain’s resilience against depression in a very physical way, they write.

Previously, the researchers had found that people who said they were religious or spiritual were at lower risk of depression. They also found that people at higher risk for depression had thinning cortices, compared to those with lower depression risk.

The cerebral cortex is the brain’s outermost layer made of gray matter that forms the organ’s characteristic folds. Certain areas of the cortex are important hubs of neural activity for processes such as sensory perception, language and emotion.

For the new study, the researchers twice asked 103 adults between the ages of 18 and 54 how important religion or spirituality was to them and how often they attended religious services over a five-year period.

In addition to being asked about spirituality, the participants’ brains were imaged once to see how thick their cortices were.

All the participants were the children or grandchildren of people who participated in an earlier study about depression. Some had a family history of depression, so they were considered to be at high risk for the disorder. Others with no history served as a comparison group.

Overall, the researchers found that the importance of religion or spirituality to an individual – but not church attendance – was tied to having a thicker cortex. The link was strongest among those at high risk of depression.

“What we’re doing now is looking at the stability of it,” Weissman said.

Her team is taking more images of the participants’ brains to see whether the size of the cortex changes with their religiosity or spirituality.

“This is a way of replicating and validating the findings,” she said. “That work is in process now.”

Dr. Dan Blazer, the J.P. Gibbons Professor of Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, said the study is very interesting but is still exploratory.

“I think this tells us it’s an area to look at,” Blazer, who was not involved in the new study, said. “It’s an area of interest but we have to be careful.”

For example, he said there could be other areas of the brain linked to religion and spirituality. Also, spirituality may be a marker of something else, such as socioeconomic status.

Blazer added that it’s an exciting time, because researchers are actively looking at links between the brain, religion and risk of depression.

“We’ve seen this field move from a time when there were virtually no studies done at all,” he said.

Weissman said the mind and body are intimately connected.

“What this means therapeutically is hard to say,” she added.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1jYo6ro JAMA Psychiatry, online December 25, 2013.

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from The Guardian

Rowan Williams tells ‘persecuted’ western Christians to grow up

Former archbishop of Canterbury says UK and US Christians exaggerate ‘mild discomfort’, and gay friends may feel let down



Charlotte Higgins, chief arts writer
The Guardian, Thursday 15 August 2013 18.52 BST

Former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at the Edinburgh international book festival in Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian
Christians in Britain and the US who claim that they are persecuted should “grow up” and not exaggerate what amounts to feeling “mildly uncomfortable”, according to Rowan Williams, who last year stepped down as archbishop of Canterbury after an often turbulent decade.
“When you’ve had any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word very chastely,” he said. “Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable. ‘For goodness sake, grow up,’ I want to say.”
True persecution was “systematic brutality and often murderous hostility that means that every morning you wonder if you and your children are going to live through the day”. He cited the experience of a woman he met in India “who had seen her husband butchered by a mob”.
Lord Williams’s years as archbishop of Canterbury were marked by turbulence over the church’s stance on the role of gay priests and bishops; gay marriage; and homophobia in the wider Anglican communion – with many members of the church expressing disappointment at a perceived hardening in its position on homosexuality.
Asked if he had let down gay and lesbian people, he said after a pause: “I know that a very great many of my gay and lesbian friends would say that I did. The best thing I can say is that is a question that I ask myself really rather a lot and I don’t quite know the answer.”
Sharing a platform at the Edinburgh international book festival with Julia Neuberger, president of the Liberal Judaism movement, Williams launched a withering critique of popular ideas about spirituality. “The last thing it is about is the placid hum of a well-conducted meditation,” he said.
He said the word “spiritual” in today’s society was frequently misused in two ways: either to mean “unworldly and useless, which is probably the sense in which it has been used about me”, or “meaning ‘I’m serious about my inner life, I want to cultivate my sensibility'”.
He added: “Speaking from the Christian tradition, the idea that being spiritual is just about having nice experiences is rather laughable. Most people who have written seriously about the life of the spirit in Christianity and Judaism spend a lot of their time telling you how absolutely bloody awful it is.” Neuberger said she found some uses of the word self-indulgent and offensive. Williams argued that true spirituality was not simply about fostering the inner life but was about the individual’s interaction with others.
“I’d like to think, at the very least, that spiritual care meant tending to every possible dimension of sense of the self and each other, that it was about filling out as fully as possible human experience,” he said.
Asked by Neuberger whether he felt organised religion encouraged the life of the spirit, he replied: “The answer is of course a good Anglican yes and no”. While it can pass on the shared values of tradition, it can also operate as simply “the most satisfying leisure activity possible. It can also be something that you use to bolster your individual corporate ego.”
Discussing the relationship between church and state, he said the established church was “an odd business, a very messy and complicated business” but that he was “bloody-minded” about the notion of disestablishment. “I am not in a hurry to see the church disestablished if the pressure is coming from what I regard as the wrong kind of secularism.”
On Prince Charles’s apparent desire to be known as “defender of faith” (as in all faiths) rather than “defender of the faith” (as in simply Anglicanism) on his accession to the throne, the two clerics disagreed.
Neuberger said she believed “defender of faith” was exactly right. Williams replied: “You’re wrong … defender of the faith is just one of those historic titles that is part of the stream of things; it means almost what you want it to mean.” Neuberger replied: “What’s important about what Prince Charles has said is that it assumes parity of esteem, which for my lot is quite important.”
Williams was asked whether the Church of England ran the risk of functioning merely as a well-meaning NGO.
Referring to the current archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s recent statements on wanting to compete with payday lender Wonga, he said: “If the church or some of its representatives make remarks on matters of public interest, it can trigger the question where does that come from?
“Can you trace back your attitude to, say, credit unions or the environment to something that is distinctive in the religious heritage? And that means pursuing the conversation a bit.
“The risk of being reduced to an NGO, another woolly, well-meaning liberal thinktank or ambulance service – that’s not a fate I would relish for my church,” he said.

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God’s Holy Fools

God's Holy Fools

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May 5, 2013 · 12:38

Spirituality and Ethics – Beyond Religion

All the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.

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Spirituality and Mental Well-being


If you’re not in touch with your spiritual side, here’s a good reason to start: It may hold benefits for your mental health.

A small new study shows that regardless of what religion you ascribe to, spirituality in general is linked with greater mental health. In particular, spirituality in the study was linked with decreased neuroticism and increased extraversion, researchers found.

“With increased spirituality  people reduce their sense of self and feel a greater sense of oneness and connectedness with the rest of the universe,” study researcher Dan Cohen, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, said in a statement. “What was interesting was that frequency of participation in religious activities or the perceived degree of congregational support was not found to be significant in the relationships between personality, spirituality, religion and health.”

The researchers analyzed several survey results, which included information from 160 people. Forty of them were Buddhists, 41 were Catholics, 22 were Jews, 31 were Protestants and 26 were Muslims, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Religion and Health

Recently, a Gallup-Healthways study showed that people who are religious report better health than their less-religious counterparts, HuffPost Religion reported.

Specifically, that study examined how health was better among people who considered themselves “very religious” compared with those who considered themselves only moderately religious or nonreligious.

They found that the “very religious” scored themselves slightly higher than the moderately religious and nonreligious in areas of quality of life access to doctors, healthy habits, emotional health and job satisfaction. However, the nonreligious people scored their physical health higher than the religious people in the study, HuffPost Religion reported.

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The Meenister’s Log

An Army Chaplain was due to give a talk to a group of squaddies about spirituality, but fell ill at the last minute.

The Sergeant-Major immediately took control of the situation.

On a whiteboard – at the top – he drew a “picture” of God (which rather resembled a kid’s drawing of the sun)


At the bottom, he drew a stick-man.

And he connected the two with a line.

“Right, listen up – that there is God up there ; and that’s human bein’s down there.  That’s all you need to know.  Right, let’s talk about the football instead”

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