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Is Church Dull?

I wonder why the church has gained the reputation in our day for being dull?  Could is be that many of us who claim to follow Jesus really are dull?  Could it be that we are too cautious about our faith?  Could it be that in our desire to play it safe and feel secure that we have given up the courage and enthusiasm  that gives the Christian life the spirit of abundance Jesus spoke about?  Could it be that we treat the Christian faith as routine—that we avoid anything novel?

We are sensible people.  We are logical people.  We are practical people.  We are people who pride ourselves on the exercise of common sense.  We believe in moderation.  We weigh the pros and cons on both sides, ask other people what they think and act prudently.  We know how to look like respectable Christians.  We try to be basically decent.  We come to church.  We say our prayers.  We quietly read our Bible.  We stay out of jail.  Most people don’t expect anything more than that.  Some people believe that being a Christian is nothing more than acting decent and staying out of trouble. 

Is that what it means to follow Jesus—to stay out of trouble?   Of course not!  Think about it:  Jesus was always in trouble.  He was always challenging injustice.  He was always opposing the status quo.  He was always associated with the “wrong kind of people.”  People said a lot of things about Jesus—some good and some bad—but there was one thing that people never said about him—they never said he was dull!

I think our quandary is that we are content to do what we have always done—what we think is expected.  The problem is that expectations aren’t much.  An ordinary day is nothing to brag about.  This week I came across this prayer by Thomas Merton: 

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.” 

When I finished reading that statement, I had to admit that I almost always know where I am going.  Almost everything that happens is predictable.  I take the same path to the office every morning.  I eat at the same few establishments when out with the family – usually eating the same items from the menu with each visit.  Most of what I do is routine, scheduled, predictable, planned out.

In the death of Ivan Ilych, Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Ivan … life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.”

The message of the Gospel is that we share in the very life of the Divine.  Through faith in Jesus Christ, we enter into the “perichoresis” – the Divine dance of our triune God. 

Now here’s the thing that strikes me (blows me away, really).  THERE IS NOTHING DULL ABOUT GOD.

So why am I content to avoid anything novel, different, or bold.  Why am I so often content to step outside the life that is mine through Christ, in order to preserve the “same old same old.” 

And why are our churches so unwilling to step out and live boldly under God’s grace?  In most of our churches, change is a four letter word.  We gather at the same time, to sing the same songs, to study the same selection of texts, with the same “order of service” and weekly agenda items that we observed the week before.  Nothing fresh.  Nothing bold.  Nothing new. 

Just consider God’s creation. The Psalmist wrote:  “The heavens declare the glory of God.”  Of course, we see that for ourselves.  From smallest grain of sand to the far flung universes we see through a telescope, God’s creation is filled with wonder, majesty, and beauty.  Nothing DULL here.

Or how about during the story of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt.  The miracles, signs, and wonders were anything but DULL.  Or what about when Moses received the tablets of the law.  Or when Elijah encountered God in the wilderness. 

Jesus wasn’t dull either.  He attended parties, hung out with “sinners and tax-collectors,” and told funny stories.  When people were hurting, he helped them.  Hungry? – he fed them.  Blind? – he gave them sight.  Crippled? – he told them to rise up and walk.  Dead? – he brought them back to life.  Nothing DULL here.

The Holy Spirit was anything but dull.  While the early believers was held up in hiding in the “upper room,” the Spirit came with a loud roar, a mighty rush of wind, and tongues of fire.  The Spirit filled them with energy, power, and courage.  The Spirit gave them the ability to speak in other languages.  Nothing DULL here.

There is nothing DULL about God.  So, why are we so content to be dull?  Why are we content just to get by?  We were created and have been redeemed for so much more.

As we prepare to embark on an Advent journey, considering the wonders and mysteries of God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ, let’s shake off the dullness and really engage in the LIFE that Jesus shares with us as we are adopted into the Divine family.  Let’s start living the life we’ve been given to its fullest.

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