Today’s Gospel: John 5:19-29
Many people are leaving the Church, and it is time to ask why. Between 2001 and 2015, the Episcopal Church decreased in active members by 25% and average Sunday attendance dropped by 34%. In a 2009 Survey, the Pew Research Center asked people their reasons for departing organized religion (mostly Christianity), and two major reasons were that religion came across as “hypocritical” and “judgmental.” Religious leaders seemed–in the eyes of the general public–much more concerned with rules and power, than with the central claims of faith. Citing this study, Presiding Bishop Curry asks how we can correct ourselves by building a Church that actually looks something like Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, what does it mean to honor the Son, as today’s Gospel calls us to do?
As I ponder these issues, especially with younger folks, I notice a hunger for true community. I can feel a lonely disconnect even as our devices and social media imitate the joy of actual human connection. I hear people ask searing questions about meaning and purpose in a culture that rewards relentless pursuit of self. People seem hungry for so much more.
The good news is that Jesus announces a way of love that defined his life and teaching, and sends us to share the liberating and life-giving Gospel. Clarence Skinner sums it up, “where the good of all is the quest of each,” where life takes on more meaning when I focus on the needs of others. Consider the way you feel when you can pick up your best friend’s phone call, even if you answer fewer emails that day.
Our friends in the Presiding Bishop’s office have provided spiritual practices to help us engage the Way of Love, and I have to tell you that the daily practices are changing me. I have been particularly transformed by the practice of daily scripture study.
I’m optimistic about the church’s future, by the way. I think we have age-old wisdom to shine light on questions that real people are asking right now. Our task is to honor Jesus personally and corporately, practicing his way of love and allowing our lives to be changed.
God is Love; and love enfolds us, all the world in one embrace:
With unfailing grasp God holds us, every child of every race.
And when human hearts are breaking under sorrow’s iron rod,
Then we find that self-same aching deep within the heart of God.
(Hymn 379, Stanza 2)
GET YOUR DAILY LENTEN MEDITATION
Receive a Lenten Meditation each morning, helping you to make the journey through Lent to Easter.