The Rev. Paul Gray, senior pastor, New Life in Christ, 619 Vt.:
I’m thrilled to say that I have no favorite “religious activities” any time of year!
Religion, as I understand it, is any effort to gain or maintain favor with God by my efforts. I hope I never participate in another “religious activity!”
The good news of Jesus Christ is that he has already done everything necessary for me to be right with God — now and forever! He wants me to rest in that knowledge, relax and enjoy life with him. Jesus Christ lives in me. So everywhere we go and everything we do, we do together!
I enjoy Jesus when I’m having a cup of coffee and talking to him as the sun comes up on my front porch, mowing the yard, driving my car, watching TV or reading a book. I seem to especially enjoy Jesus when we’re with other people: playing catch with my son and grandson; having a meal with my wife, daughter and friends; playing music with friends; going to a Royals game with family and friends; hanging out with people in any and every situation! That’s what Jesus did when he was on the earth in his own human body — he just hung out with people and did life with them.
Most of them were not yet Christians and he didn’t spend much time at “church.” He had no use for religion or people who thought religion was the way to please his father. By God’s grace, Jesus chooses to live in us and through us. My favorite activity is to do life with Jesus 24/7, 365. That’s his favorite activity, too — not just with me, but with you too! Enjoy him!
— Send email to Paul Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Peter A. Luckey, senior pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:
A summer walk through the Flint Hills brought me to a still place.
I slipped off my backpack and sat down on a rock. Except for a hummingbird’s motoring little wings, suspending her in mid air as she drank nectar from some red trumpet vines, all else was quiet. The words of the Psalmist came to me:
“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
Making time for solitude is a spiritual activity I treasure all year around, but especially so in the summer when God’s creation begs us to be out in it. The spiritual practices of the world’s great religious traditions have known for centuries about the life-giving restorative power that can come from such quiet moments. In ancient times, Christian monastics retreated to the desert to find God. Zen Buddhists meditate in the beauty of a Zen garden in their quest to attain enlightenment.
Religions that stand the test of time know that the secret of life is finding a balance between community and solitude. We are social beings. We need connection, engagement with others, to feel part of a greater whole.
And yet, the truth is that we can sabotage the very community we long for, if we go after it without first finding a center in ourselves. Said in another way, it’s only by having some distance on the world that we can see it whole; it’s only by stepping briefly away from those we love that we have something useful to bring to them.
Take time this summer to be “still.” Unplug. Disconnect. Hear the Psalmist whisper to you, “Know that I am God.”
— Send email to Peter Luckey at email@example.com.