I first should apologize for the hash this sermon was. The Gospel of John does that to me. I think I am going to swear off preaching on John for about 20 years. Maybe then I will have the wisdom to do it well.
I had been reading a book, partly for pleasure and partly to see what “pop spirituality” looked like today. I have a heavy tendency to be serious, or maybe that should be a serious tendency to be heavy in my reading. It is a stock joke in my family the books I bring to the beach. One year it was Modern Times by Paul Johnson and another Luther’s commentary on Galatians. Knowing full well that is not typical, every now and then I need to pick up something lighter. Usually that mean P. D. James or another mystery writer. Not this time. And that book got in my thought processes.
John reaches out of his story at John 20:30-31 and points at Jesus. Especially Lutheran, but Christian Theology and religion, is fundamentally outward focuses. Article 2 of the Augsburg Confession is Original Sin. The first T in Calvin’s TULIP is total depravity. Anything that comes from within us is corrupt and suspect. The wholly other God comes from outside of us, and through no merit or work of ours, saves us through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Christian life starts with that work of God and proceeds outword. God does not free us from ourselves to ponder our stomachs, but to tell others about the person of Jesus Christ. And that is what John does in those verses. He’s telling his reader the entire purpose for his writing is that you might believe in Jesus.
That pop spirituality book was Eat, Pray, Love. The path of the author is one fundamentally of Easter Religion or just what I would call the religions of the world. They all boil down to “if I do something hard enough (work/meditate/etc) then I will find and please God.” The further East you go, the more that religion turns one inward to the point of “finding the God within.” You are only guilty or lost or [insert bad feeling here] becuase your mind has separated you from the God-hood inside of you. Eat, Pray, Love beautifully/horribly captures this path. And that path is exactly opposite what the Apostle John says.
Kipling wrote the line – East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet. In the globalized world unfortunately they do seem to meet, and with disasterous spiritual effects for those spiritually unprepared, like the author of Eat, Pray, Love.