Prayer: As we ponder and wonder, help us to see your ways, Lord. Amen.
Reading: Luke 2: 52 (Click to read text)
Stop and GROW: After reading the text, discuss/ponder the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Book of Faith questions, which are part of Camp Mount Luther's GROW Time with campers.
QUESTION 1: What scares, confuses, challenges, or doesn’t make sense to me in this text?
QUESTION 2: What delights me in this text or is my favorite part of the story?
QUESTION 3: What stories or memories does this text stir in me?
QUESTION 4: What is God up to in this text?
This is a piece I wrote for a church youth group who was looking into spirituality. I was asked to reflect on that topic and give my opinion. I share it here with you! --Chad Hershberger
When I was a senior high camper at a Lutheran church camp, there were two different cabin groups of kids my age. Each went on an overnight camping trip the same night at two campsites that were not too far in distance.
As my group was finishing up our campfire meal, we heard some shouting coming towards the campsite where the other group was staying. The shouting was more of a chant and it went something like this: “We’ve got spirit, yes we do. We’ve got spirit, how about you?”
If you know this chant from a sporting event, you probably know how we responded. “We’ve got spirit, yes we do. We’ve got spirit, how about you?”
As I remember, that went on for a while, and was a fun way to connect our two groups that night. When I think about spirituality, I think about how we are connected to God. It’s like God chanting at us, asking us if we are on God’s team. And our reply is not a chant, but is in how we act towards others.
I hear that many young adults today remark that they are spiritual, but not religious. That bothers me because I think the two are intertwined. To me, religion is our outward practice of our faith. For Christians, it is how we tell the world about Jesus and what he did on the cross for us. Sometimes it’s with words but more often it’s with actions. Being religious means that we worship, pray, sing, read the Bible, and serve. What we really are doing is being faithful. We faithfully worship, we faithfully pray, we faithfully sing, we faithfully read scripture, and we faithfully serve. I think what is meant when folks say they are spiritual but not religious is that they don’t appreciate an organized means of showing their faith. They don’t appreciate the structure of a denominational or independent church. They’d rather believe in God but binge watch Netflix or play soccer on a Sunday morning. They have belief but choose to keep that to themselves or manifest it in other ways.
But I’m not sure that you can be spiritual without being in community with others. Sure, you can still have faith and believe in God but isn’t part of it being part of the bigger Body of Christ? We need to gather in community as fellow believers to support one another. We need to have Bible study together so that we can share insights and grow in our faith. We need to pray together and bring our concerns to others so that they can share in our joys and sorrows. We need to sing together and be uplifted by the cloud of witnesses who share in our song and praise of God.
In Luke 2:52, we are told of a young Jesus who increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man. Jesus grew mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially. If we look at the definition give to us in this passage, spirituality would mean increasing in favor with God. When I became a child a God, I was marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit forever. God loves me unconditionally. So, how can I increase favor with God? I’m not sure I can but I think God probably really enjoys spending time with me. When I worship, pray, sing, read the Bible, and serve others, God is smiling because that is our time together. And as we spend more time together, I bet God looks upon me more favorably. As a parent, my love grows for my children the more I spend time with them.
So, what is spirituality? For me, it’s believing in a higher, divine being. It’s being in community with other believers who help me grow in my faith. And, it’s spending time with God through my worship, study, and service. If I am spiritual, I’m engaged in all of these things. I am faithful (or religious) in being these things. And I am blessed to be able to say, “I’ve got spirit, yes I do. I’ve got spirit, how about you?”
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