My little wooden bench by this trellis is a favorite spot for me to go and pray. The trellis in spring, gently caressed by a twining young Ipomoea Multifida, otherwise known as Cypress Vine, resembles a chapel window. I love how God has created beauty in so many forms, reminders of his loving care.
What a happy accident it was to have this little green chapel window at my favorite prayer spot! It is a reminder that we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NASB). Prayer is so much more than something we happen to do in church services, or a ritual before meals. As a matter of fact, some of my most earnest prayers have been offered up to the Father from this spot. It does not take a church building, or a crowd, to have meaningful dialogue with our Creator.
Unfortunately, some of my friends have taken this truism to an extreme. Too many times we hear, “I can worship God by the riverbank while I’m fishing;”or, “I commune with God along with the birds and butterflies in my garden.” To me, that is so sad. They are missing out!
This little “Church of the Cypress Vine” is not a church at all, even with all the praying going on. The word for “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia. The church is a called-out people. Not as in, “called out of the house by this gorgeous Sunday morning to enjoy the sunshine outside;” but called out of the world to come together as Christians. We are connected with one another as Christians. (Go to my column about the Colorado aspens for more on that subject.)
There is a viral video on YouTube that has the author saying, “Religion? I hate it. In fact, I literally resent it.” Is he anti-God? Not by his account. He seems sincere in saying he loves Christ but hates religion. To tell the truth, I thought there was merit in his message for a few moments, until that gnawing uneasiness made me recognize his problem. He was rejecting the “church” and organized religion because of a few bad apples. He wanted Christ, but not the organization nor the “rules,” that he thinks the church enforces.
“Religion says ‘do,’ Jesus says ‘done,’” he states. This implies that after Jesus died, we don’t have anything left to do. “You are my friends, if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). Jesus did not die so that we can coast through life without responsibilities. We are responsible to one another, and to our Lord and Master.
While it is true that wars and hatred in the name of religion are not what Christ came to teach, we must not be fooled into thinking that the actions of a few represent Christianity. We certainly don’t need Satan to fool us into thinking that we can have our own church in the quietness and solitude of a garden, a fishing spot, or the open road on a motorcycle.
Jesus often withdrew to a quiet or lonely place for prayer. He also participated in what you might call organized religion in spite of all its warts and corruption. That is to say, he attended the synagogues regularly. “I did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
Think: If all the “enlightened” people stayed at home or went fishing on Sunday morning to commune with God, will that make the church better, or worse? Where will you be Sunday morning? I will be at the church of Christ. Hope you are, too!