I led a Bible study group last week, where one of the participants sank deeper and deeper into her chair, until finally pronouncing herself completely baffled. “Couldn’t God just make this more simple?”
Can we make religion more simple? Yes. Just say the word, “atonement,” but even better: “at-one-ment.” The whole goal and substance of faith is to keep us one with God. “At-one-ment” is our default position – we were created to be connected with God, and to live in concert with his creative love.
At-one-ment is the reason for Jesus. Here, we see in an understandable and compelling way, a human life at one with God – compassionate, just, forgiving, healing, conquering death. Jesus is pure at-one-ment.
At-one-ment drove our Jewish ancestors to offer sacrifices to God of thanksgiving and contrition. At-one-ment inspired early Christians to create rituals like communion and baptism and confession. At-one-ment is the motive behind the Bible – to connect us with God.
But, here’s the reality of everyday life: many feel disconnected from God. Our religious rituals and writings and worship services intend to bring us closer, but they can actually block that closeness.
This Sunday we’ll look at the challenge of staying close to God – does religion hurt more than help?