March 15, 2020
Good morning and welcome to Friendship. We are on the journey to Knowing God (Eugene Peterson):
Religion in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset. Religion is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure. For some it is a weekly jaunt to church; for others, occasional visits to special services. Some, with a bent for religious entertainment and sacred diversion, plan their lives around special events like concerts, retreats, and conferences. We go to see a new personality, to hear a new song, a new truth, to get a new experience and so somehow expand our otherwise hum drum lives. The religious life is defined as the latest and newest: Zen, faith healing, human potential, parapsychology, successful living, choreography in the chancel, Armageddon. We’ll try anything — until something else comes along.
I don’t know what it has been like for pastors in other cultures and previous centuries, but I am quite sure that for a pastor in Western culture at the dawn of the twenty-first century, the aspect of world that makes the work of leading Christians in the way of faith most difficult is what Gore Vidal has analyzed as “today’s passion for the immediate and the casual.” Everyone is in a hurry. The persons whom I lead in worship, among whom I counsel, visit, pray, preach and teach, want shortcuts. They want me to help them fill out the form that will get them instant credit (in eternity). They are impatient for results. They have adopted the lifestyle of a tourist and only want the high points. But a pastor is not a tour guide. I have no interest in telling apocryphal religious stories at and around dubiously identified sacred sites. The Christian life cannot mature under such conditions and in such ways.
Friedrich Nietzsche, who saw this area of spiritual truth at least with great clarity, wrote “The essential thing in heaven and earth is … that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” It is this “long obedience in the same direction” , which the mood of the world does so much to discourage.