Message for Sunday 29 March 2020: “Seek Spiritual Life”

Today’s lectionary theme is God’s life-nurturing victory over death and destruction. The message will tap lectionary themes from Ezekiel, Romans and John’s gospel, all of which reveal a triumphant spirit that even the grave can’t overcome.

Do you feel that you are a person who cultivates spiritual health and vitality? Just showing up at church regularly doesn’t guarantee that you getting the most out of your religion. Spiritual health and vitality are at the core a truly fulfilling life, one that you can experience no matter who or where you are. Consider Ezekiel’s optimism about dry bones coming to life (Ezekiel 37:1-14), Paul’s lively encouragement (Romans 8:6-11), and finally Lazarus’ raising from the dead (John 11:1-45). Together, these three testimonies can encourage you to overcome obstacles as you strive for an enhanced existence.

There’s often confusion about what it means to be spiritual, which involves both attitude and action as part of a transformed lifestyle. Paul, the most prolific New Testament writer, focused on the contrast between the flesh and the spirit. For Paul, putting too much emphasis on the flesh is a fatal preoccupation. Humans realize their spiritual potential when they place God above all the competing loyalties and distractions.

Paul warns against obsessively feeding carnal appetites.  Indulging the flesh without restraint invites harmful substances, attitudes and behaviors, a toxic stew leading to destruction. Self-gratification at the expense of love renders people miserable and ultimately destroyed. Paul states that “to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8: 6-11).

God has designed humans as spiritual beings. People will therefore remain incomplete and unfulfilled without spiritual wakefulness and vitality. A full and joyful humanity arises from recognizing and cultivating your spiritual dimension.  Furthermore, even scientific evidence suggests that humans have minds which derive survival benefits from spirituality. Anthropology, psychology and biology variously attest that spirituality can help people thrive.

The gist is that there is no substitute for spiritual health. You and everyone else are invited to embrace spirituality as a wondrous blessing. Do you want to strengthen your church?  Do you want to experience personal renewal and transformation? If you said “yes” then I’m with you and we can move forward. This does not mean that there are not challenges or that it will be easy. Overcoming resistance requires effort. Even so, victory is assured if you remain focused and determined to claim all of God’s promises and possibilities.

Consider how the Bible passage from Ezekiel describes God resurrecting life from musty skeletons. “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live” (Ezekiel 37:5). Similarly, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead with a rock-solid reassurance: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live” (John 11:25). Even something as seemingly definitive as death can’t block God’s spiritual essence. God and love are so powerful that nothing can overcome them.

Consider what God can do for you, for me and our church as we embrace all that the Almighty has for us. Together, we’ll realize that blessings from God overcome death and all challenges. As God’s child you can nurture God’s presence and radiate life. In this way the light of faith will shine from within you and demonstrate to the world how God strengthens you.

Energizing the spiritual life of our church, our community and beyond is a person-by-person extension of an individual’s personal relationship with God. All of this begins with you, and with me—the us that comprises our faith community known as St. John United Church of Christ.

Each friend and member of St. John has both the responsibility and privilege of developing a healthy spiritual life. The growth and status of our church will then be a reflection of how deeply and sincerely each person cultivates their faith. Let’s celebrate our empowerment to live a life of life-enhancing power. Don’t let anything or anyone hold you back.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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