Posts Tagged ‘Follow me’

Death of the Religious Instinct

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Christ never commands us to worship Him.  His command, “Follow Me.”  That is frankly a crazy truth we have long since left behind.  The implications of those first two sentences remain immense.

Imagine this.  Here is the oft-told story of the rich young men.  Having done everything right, he asks Christ, essentially, what more do I need to do.  Christ’s reply – Sell it all. Give the proceeds to the poor.  Follow me.  In churches what would our response have been?  In Catholic churches – “Do these sacraments.”  In Protestant churches – “Take this class, get baptized, read this creed.”  Among agnostics – “Do what feels right.”   Can we see how revolutionary an answer Christ’s really was, an answer that said “Get Rid Of, Give, Follow?”

So easy to neuter that message, sterilizing it into simple dogmatic pronouncements.  It is easier to battle over being right than it is to get off our behinds and follow.  The need to be right is largely the death of the religious/ spiritual instinct even though it may appear deeply “religious!”  It is our death, amen.


Bonhoeffer’s words strike right at the practical side of that “death.”  ”On the ministry of listening: The first service that one owes to others in community consists in listening to them. Just as love for God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives His Word but also lends us His ear. …Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and, in the end, there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words.”

In closing, New Church theology, for me, is a reminder to “Get Rid Of, Give, Follow.”   This church is about those roots, not approached with a spirit of righteous certitude, but with a spirit of shared love and connection. Emanuel Swedenborg saw it – was given to see it so vividly that he put down the tools of science, picked up a pen, and gave his later years to repositioning the Christian message away from the hierarchical, judgmental, “head” church so embedded in Western culture.  The movement was to an engaged church, focused on useful service of God and others, the message underlying that mission found the poetic beauty of the Word.

The highest form of worship then, in not so many words, is following Christ’s model.