The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


A spirituality that 'flowers in eternity'

Dear Grandchildren,
“Spirituality,” in current usage, probably interests your generation more than mine. Your contemporaries have brought it into the cultural mainstream with new definitions, at least new to me.

The term “spirituality” was rarely used when I was growing up. Those who believed in spiritual reality beyond the senses were simply described as “religious.” Your generation tends to separate spirituality from religion and often thinks of them as opposed to each other. I suppose some of you are among those who claim spirituality but turn off to religion, especially the institutional kind.

In the everyday language of my generation, the term “spirituality” seems more a matter of personality than religion. People thought to be less “spiritual” had a more rational or analytical way of dealing with reality. Those who were more open to possibilities beyond the senses were thought to be more “spiritual.” Such differences, I think, may be simply determined by a left-brain or right-brain orientation. Defined in this way, I do not think one to be more “spiritual” than the other from a biblical perspective. They are simply different personality types. Both can enter the new relationships God gives in Jesus and be empowered by the Spirit to love as God loves.

When defining contemporary definitions of “spirituality,” I may need your help more than you need mine. I have difficulty sorting out the variety of meanings currently attached to the term... Such “spiritualities” may offer useful disciplines for relaxation or stress reduction, but do not confuse them with biblical spirituality. However appealing, we are warned that some “spiritualities” are superficial, bogus, delusional or even diabolic. We are told to “test the spirits.” Do they invite the new and right relationships God gives? Do they nurture spiritual community? Do they empower you to love with God’s kind of love? ...

The Bible explicitly tells us that one can be a great religious leader, a heroic defender of the faith, a worker of miracles, a giver of all one possesses to charity, even suffer martyrdom, but without love, all adds up to zero. Any “spirituality,” no matter how transcending, disciplined or orthodox, is worthless before God unless it flows from and reflects God’s love.

I hope this letter helps you discern carefully when contemporary “spiritualities” make their appeal. Some may be useful in practical ways such as for stress management. But many are fraudulent, illusory, divisive, even diabolic.

I hope you are receptive to biblical spirituality that enters the new and right relationships Jesus came to bring and that reflects God’s kind of love in everyday life. If so, you will experience a genuine spirituality that grows in community and flowers in eternity.

Check out this week's articles:

Dreams of ’63 (right): Retired pastors recall march to Washington and King's speech.

Black & white in the ELCA : An e-mail conversation about race.

Motivation and social ministry : Why do Lutherans get involved?

Change happens one life at a time : Beatrice, in Uganda, reminds us of this.

Also: Habits.

Also: Sticklers for the word.

Also: The Crucifixion .

Discuss the synod self-study process:

Aug. 19—26: Join Bea Favre (right) of the Sierra Pacific Synod study team to discuss the synod self- study process.

Favre has posted an initial comment about how the study team ranked the importance of issues affecting the synod.

Consider reading "Synod does a self-study" before joining in …

Join the discussion ...

This week on our staff blog:

Andrea Pohlmann (right) blogs about the use of public meeting areas.

Kathleen Kastilahn blogs about her flight from Minneapolis to Chicago.

Check out our blog ...

The July/August issue of The Little Lutheran has arrived:

The Little Lutheran Don't let them miss another issue.

The Little Lutheran helps children 6 and younger learn about God's love for them and the world in which they live. It teaches them about Jesus, their friend and savior.
Subscribe today ...

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