Sitting in a hardwood pew with the ceiling towering high above, morning light illuminating colorful stained glass windows all around, listening to lessons first told in ancient days, taking part in a liturgy that has been played out in countless places over thousands of years… for many this is what comes to mind when asked about religion. This is religion in a human context. We marvel at man-made feats of architecture and craftsmanship, at human’s artistic expression of spiritual matters compounded with the cultural climate of the period, the (divinely inspired) words and acts designed to help us understand and bring us closer to God.
Despite clashing cultures, the passing of time, and the evolution of thought; these places of highly developed, human-regulated religion are comforting. Considering the tensions and short-comings of organized religion, they shouldn’t be comfortable. But there is something about sitting there in wonder, where so many others have been, and where I hope people will continue to find themselves, that makes it a safe place of discovery.
On the other hand, I also find myself close to God in nature, where I find the opportunity to take in the wonder of the divine’s creation. Here there is no human regulation. There may be instances where the human and the natural world collide. But efforts to control are futile here. Divine creation is impressive, resilient and constant like divine presence itself.
With God’s creation all around us, it may seem that there is no need for the refined religion of man. But I believed there is a time and place for both refined religion and raw spirituality. In our need for relationship with God and the need for community with God’s people, but also acknowledging our need to be pushed to the brink of human understanding, both means find relevance in day to day life.