What does Spirituality have to do with Religion and Theology?

An Easter Reflection

It's Easter!

The Apostle John (20:1-20) distinguishes himself from the rest of Jesus’ disciples by stating that he was the youngest among them and recalling that he outran Peter when they got to Jesus’ tomb. He also emphasizes that he was the one Jesus loved the most – an acceptable dose of pride, I guess. But, what do you think the disciples believed when they entered the empty tomb? It seems that neither Peter nor John believed that Jesus had risen from the dead since they went back to their hiding place in apparent confusion. Mary Magdalene stayed put a little longer trying to find out who took the body of her beloved Rabbi. She was more diligent than the other two in her quest for an explanation. But, in her anguish, she confused the resurrected Christ with the garden’s caretaker.

This unexpected personal encounter with Jesus changed Mary’s perception and beliefs. Later that night, a group encounter with the resurrected Christ will also change the other disciples’ perception of their reality and beliefs. As they all felt the spiritual touch from the divine, they rose to confess first and to witness to the world around them later, “I Believe!” “I believe that my Teacher, my Lord, my God lives!”

Praise be God Almighty because of those who do the same today! For this is a difficult time for our faith. Yes, because like many people around the world, perhaps you find yourself aligning with those who believe in their own version of God, a god in their own terms, and so, you define yourself as Spiritual but not Religious. For spirituality to work, however, a basic system of beliefs and practices is needed. In the Christian faith, this is similar to how we see and understand the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – theology, religion, and spirituality.

Theology (what we believe of God and how we see and understand God) is like the skeleton, the body’s bone structure. Religion (our relationship with God, the way we relate to God) is like the flesh, the muscles, and skin covering the bones to make up the body. And spirituality (the divine spark in each of us) is like the divine breath that gives and inspires life to the whole body.

We usually fail to see this because of the pressure of the dominant culture to treat spirituality as something separated from our daily routines and too personal and private. Because of this spiritual isolation, we also fail to see that the lack of faith support and moral accountability in our daily lives (something that the church naturally provides) makes us highly vulnerable to that horrible tendency to self-isolate. Why do you think Jesus spent most of his precious, short time in ministry forming and training a group of disciples in love and service? Why do you think he commanded that small community of disciples to go everywhere to make more disciples and establish more communities like that one?

God wants all people to be well and do well. It’s up to us how much we are willing to relate to God and each other. This connection has nothing to do with how intelligent, kind, good-looking, or gifted we are. It’s about how spiritually profound we are or are willing to become by learning more of God and Jesus (theology), finding the group of people with whom we can connect with God in worship and service to others (religion), and feel the divine in us so we can breathe out God’s Spirit to those around us in small bites of love and service (spirituality).

In his book, Acts: A Theological Commentary, Willie Jennings states that "Where the Spirit of God is, there is divine desire not simply for God but for one another and not simply for one another but for those to whom we are sent by the Spirit, to those already being drawn into communion with God and sensing the desire of God for the expansion of their lives into the lives of others." (pg. 11).

God invites us this Easter season to embrace a better and deeper journey into the great spirituality that the good news of the resurrected Christ offers us, even during a pandemic. Dare to embrace it so you can shout with the disciples of all times, “I Believe!” “I believe that Jesus lives!” “I believe that my Teacher, my Lord, my God lives!”

People around you may hear you or see you, so they can too be touched for life.

He is Risen!