Yesterday, a snippet of Larry King’s interview with pop singer Lady Gaga was posted on CNN.com. King asked the singer (whose real name is Stefani Germanotta), “You were raised a Catholic. What are your feelings toward church and religion in general?”
“Well I struggle about my feelings about the church in particular,” she confessed. “But I guess it’s, quite honestly, completely separate isn’t it? Religion and the church? They’re completely separate things.” Later she explained that while she believes in Jesus, she is reluctant to endorse anything organized.
How relevant is the church today? Do we even need it? Continuing the discussion, yesterday CNN also offered another article entitled, Are there dangers in being “spiritual but not religious”?
Please join me as we explore these pertinent questions.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
2 Samuel 22:1-23:23. The words in the psalm David wrote in chapter 22 is more or less found in Psalm 18. Although it appears at the end of 2 Samuel, it was written earlier in David’s reign. The psalm in chapter 22 expresses David‘s experience with God.
The psalm in chapter 23 emphasizes the covenant God had made with David and pays less attention to his enemies.
We’re coming to the end of David’s life. Even today, Israel considers him their greatest leader and, with his son Solomon, his reign resulted in Israel’s greatest influence and affluence.
But think about David’s many struggles. He spent his young adult years on the run from Saul and in his latter years he found himself on the run from his son. The feeling of peace and “settledness” seemed elusive to David throughout his life.
Acts 2:1-47. Acts is the second installment of a two-part series authored by Luke. Reading the first chapter of both Acts and the Gospel of Luke, you’ll noticed that a man named Theophilus is addressed. He was likely a member of the Roman aristocracy whom Luke might have sought to influence on behalf of the gospel.
Psalm 122:1-9. The people sang this psalm as they walked “up” to Jerusalem. It’s a “song of ascents” because of the hike in elevation going up to the royal city.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
The second chapter of Acts has been called the birthday of the church. Although Jesus’ followers assembled and prayed together after his ascension to heaven, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (which not-so-ironically occurred during the Pentecost religious holiday) certainly mobilized and empowered the people into unit.
In both the Greek and Hebrew languages, the word for “wind” and “Spirit” are the same. The symbolism of wind blowing when the Spirit was given in Acts 2 cannot be ignored. In Genesis 1, we read that the “Spirit of God” or “wind of God” was hovering over the waters during creation. In the same way, Pentecost was symbolic of a new creation for the whole world.
Simon Chan explores this in his fascinating book Liturgical Theology,
The church precedes creation in that it is what God has in view from all eternity and creation is the means by which God fulfills his eternal purpose in time. The church does not exist to fix a broken creation; rather creation exists to realize the church…God made the world in order to make the church, not vice versa. Scripture itself testifies to the logical priority of the church over creation by referring to the church as chosen in Christ before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), or to Christ who was slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).
If Simon Chan is correct in his assertions, and if Acts 2 is symbolic of a new creation, then the importance of the church cannot be ignored.
Iranaeus, the ancient church father who lived a generation after the apostle John, reportedly said, “You cannot have God for your father if you do not have the church for your mother.” While I’m reluctant to equate salvation with membership in a church, I cannot ignore the importance of the church in the early days of the Christian faith.
People may debate the validity of the church and excuse themselves from it because they see it as irrelevant, but that seems to approach the subject from the wrong end. It’s kind of like the tail wagging the dog. Trendy beliefs based on the ever-changing winds of whatever is considered “relevant” seem a bit shallow, in my estimation. Beliefs should be based in truth, but experience is so subjective that it serves as a shaky foundation for anything.
My point in all of this? Two thousand years ago God sent his only Son Jesus to save us. Then he sent the church—not individual disparate followers of Jesus—into the world to continue what he started. It assuredly isn’t perfect, but the church is God’s primary means of rescuing the world from itself. Not because of the people, but because of Jesus’ work through those imperfect people.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- If you were to write a psalm about your life-long experience with God, what would it look like?
- Reading through Acts 2, what is God’s intent?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.