June 17, 2012: Toxic Religion vs Healthy Religion

Posted on : Jun 14th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, set off a firestorm recently when he suggested banning the sale of “supersized” sugary drinks at most public venues and restaurants in the City.  It is one of his administration’s strategies to combat an epidemic of obesity and related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.  Of course those who reacted most strongly against this idea were the ones who would take the biggest financial hit, the soft-drink/beverage industry.  But a bunch of other folks have joined the conversation, questioning whether it is the government’s role to regulate such items for health risk reasons.

At best, Mayor Bloomberg has opened up an important discussion.  Personally I had no idea just how much sugar is in sugary soft drinks and fruit juices until I saw a demonstration on one of the news shows.  In a 24 oz. bottle of soft drink or sugary fruit juice there are about 15 teaspoons of sugar!  12 teaspoons makes ¼ cup – so that’s more than ¼ cup of sugar in just 24 oz of beverage!  That makes me gag.  I had no idea there was that much sugar in beverages.  It appears that the NY City Board of Health is supportive of the proposed idea but one thing you can be certain of, is that when it comes to food – especially “snack foods” people get really fired up when the government tries to regulate our choices!

In my opinion, Mayor Bloomberg has already done a great service to all of us just by raising our consciousness about these issues.  He’s been doing this for a while.  He was the first to propose that restaurants be required to post calorie counts on menus or at least have them available.  Again, I had no idea how many calories and how much fat is in the average restaurant meal, especially some of the supersize portions that some restaurant serve, until I saw it in print.  Yikes!!

As I’ve been reading and watching this debate unfold, I keep thinking to myself, “I sure wish we could begin an honest conversation about ‘Making Healthy Spiritual Choices’ for our lives.  There is more than enough sugary religion to go around and surely super-sized religion is available everywhere!  And of course there is no lack of junk-religion out there as well.  Sadly, an awful lot of people have no idea what healthy religion is – what it looks like, what it tastes like and how it is good for you.  Those who are smart enough to know that junk religion is marketed with a passion for profit (as opposed to the actual message of the prophets), have banned all religion as junk.  And there are plenty of folks who just don’t know how bad the religion they’ve been “sold” is for their spiritual health.

This Sunday we’re going to focus on the difference between sugary, junk-religion and healthy, organic religion.  We’re going to look at the difference between religion for profit and prophetic religion.  We’re going to look at Jesus’ imperative to make healthy spiritual choices for our lives, not toxic-laced spirituality that certainly leads to death.

One of the choices God offers the people of Israel before they enter the promised land is the ability to choose between “good and evil,” “life and death.”  God says to the people, “Look I put before you today the ability to choose between life and death.  Therefore, choose life, that you and your descendants may live good, long and wonderful lives.”

One of the most useful things Mayor Bloomberg is teaching us is to examine what is the value of the food we are eating and the beverages we are drinking.  Some of the stuff we are eating is not good for us.  The same needs to be said for religion.  Some of the religious junk-food that is out there is not good for us.  It can kill us spiritually.  It can kill our very souls.  We need to know what is organic and healthy and what is toxic and “junky.”   Once we’ve figured that out, then we can make healthy spiritual choices for our lives.



~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

“God invites us to choose between good and evil, life and death.”

Today I have set before you life and blessing, or death and disaster.  For today I command you to love the Holy One, your God, to follow God’s ways and keep God’s commandments, laws and customs.  If you do, you will live and increase, and God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.  But if your hearts stray and you do not listen to me, if you let yourself be drawn into the worship of other gods, and serve them, I tell you today, you will not survive.  You will not live long in the land which you are now crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today:  I set before you life or death, blessing or curse.  Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, by loving your God, by obeying God’s voice and by clinging to God.  For that will mean life for you, a long life in the land which God swore to give to your descendants Sarah and Abraham, Rebecca and Isaac, and Leah and Rachel and Jacob.

John 10: 1-10

Jesus teaches about claiming life in all its fullness.

The truth of the matter is, whoever doesn’t enter the sheepfold through the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a robber. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep, the one for whom the keeper opens the gate.  The sheep know the shepherd’s voice; the shepherd calls them by name and leads them out.  Having led them all out of the fold, the shepherd walks in front of them and they follow because they recognize the shepherd’s voice. They simply won’t follow strangers – they‘ll flee from them because they don’ recognize the voice of strangers.”

Even though Jesus used this metaphor with the Pharisees, they didn’t grasp what he was trying to tell them.  He therefore said to them:

The truth of the matter is, I am the sheep gate.  All who came before me were thieves and extortionists.  I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be safe – you’ll go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy.  I came that you might have life, and have it in all its fullness.

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