In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared debunks the myth of what true and faithful Christian devotion actually looks like. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am.
The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.
This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith.
One of my favorite leaders in my own Anglican Tradition was Bishop Frank Weston, bishop of Zanzibar in Africa, who offered a powerful sermon in 1923 to a group of gathered Anglicans. Near the end of that sermon he said, “If you are Christians then your Jesus is one and the same: Jesus on the Throne of his glory, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus received into your hearts in Communion, Jesus with you mystically as you pray, and Jesus enthroned in the hearts and bodies of his brothers and sisters up and down this country. And it is folly—it is madness—to suppose that you can worship Jesus in the Sacraments and Jesus on the Throne of glory, when you are sweating him in the souls and bodies of his children.”
Given Bishop Weston’s attempt to describe the whole nature of full and faithful Christian devotion, today’s I’d like to try to break the myth of what a truly devoted Christian looks like.
First, I want to be clear that participation in the Christian church is essential to Christian devotion. But that is not because you cannot love God apart from the church—many have clearly done that well. It is not because you cannot be saved unless you go to church—our God can save everyone and the whole of the Scriptural tradition would indicate that he tends to have a preference for those religion often leaves behind.
Rather, participation in the Christian church is essential for the fullest experience of Christian devotion because it is through the church that we learn how to love our neighbor faithfully. The reason for this, of course, is because Christians are a bunch of imperfect, often frustrating to be around people. And, as our Lord told us, simply loving those you already like is no great test of Christian discipleship. But loving those you find more… difficult… this is when we begin to learn what it is like to love like Jesus. And there’s no better way to find people that are sometimes difficult to love than to start going to church regularly.
Furthermore, the practice of devotion in the Christian church is meant to train our hearts and our spirits. Devotion to God through prayer, through spiritual practices, through devotion to the blessed sacrament, through sacred images which draw our hearts and minds to God, all of these train us to love God more than ourself. Because, of course, the hardest thing it seems for humans to learn when it comes to Christianity (or any religion, really) is how to love anything more than we love ourselves.
But it does not end there.
Rather, the practices of Christian devotion, practices that draw us more deeply into the love our God has for us and the love we have for our God, these are meant to teach us how to better practice reverence in other areas of our life as well. After all, as Bishop Weston also said in that same sermon, “You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slum.”
Yes, you cannot claim to worship Jesus in your church if you are not equally concerned and filled with love for Jesus in the poor and oppressed. Or, as our Lord himself said in the twenty-fifth chapter Matthew’s Gospel, “Then they will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you? Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”
Love Jesus in your church, absolutely. But practice your adoration and devotion there so that when you encounter the hungry in our world, when you encounter the sick, when you encounter the immigrant or the prisoner or anyone who is oppressed by the systems and powers of this world… so that when you encounter them, you have learned what it means to love Jesus there too. You have learned that Jesus is there, too.
And so that you have learned what it means to offer all of yourself, not just to an idea about Jesus in church, but to offer all of yourself to Jesus as he meets you today in the poor, imprisoned, immigrant, and oppressed of this world.
Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today.