This weekend is Back to Church Sunday (I hope you found your person to invite!). I figured, what better way to expose those new visitors to Covenant than to preach a sermon on…Drum Roll please…BUDDHISM! That’s right, the sermon this Sunday is going to spend a lot of time thinking about the Epistle of James from a Buddhist perspective.
Now, I know this is more than a little out of the ordinary, but I do have some very good reasons for doing this. First of all, the passage this week really does capture 3 of the 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism 1quite well. If you don’t know what those are, come on Sunday and find out. Secondly, this is Covenant…the church of “What’s going to happen next?” I felt there was perhaps no better way to live into our identity than to throw a real curve ball on the Sunday that brings many visitors through our doors.
Finally, and I think most importantly, there is perhaps no better way to deeply understand our Christian faith than to study a different faith. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but trust me, there is deep truth to this idea. When I was in college, I was a part of a program called, “Lives of Faith.” As a part of this program, we met once a month to have dinner with people of different faith traditions to learn a lot about people that were different from us. A few things that are important here: the person who was presenting on a given night was not expected to be an expert on their tradition, but was simply supposed to answer the question, “What’s it like to be a (insert religion here) living in a small town in rural Texas and attending college?” The point was not to learn all there was to know about (insert religion here), it was to realize that none of us can speak for the entirety of our religious group. That means, what we can learn is what faith looks like for a particular person, and reflect on that in light of our own faith. I came to discover, this was one of the places in my own journey where I most learned what it was to be Christian. In order to interact in meaningful ways at those dinners, you had to be in touch with what you understood your tradition to be.
I would also add, that the other way I have most deeply come to understand my own Christian Faith was from world travel in countries that were not primarily composed of Christians. Pausing while hearing the call to prayer ring out across Istanbul forced me to ask the question, “What does a meaningful prayer life look like for me?” Being overwhelmed by the incense while walking through Buddhist temples in Bangkok forced me to think about, “What is meaningful ritual in my religious life?” Being invited to ring prayer bells in a temple in Yangon required me to think about, “What are the implications of this practice in my own tradition?”
I am an avid believer that the best way to understand your own tradition is to have relationships with people of different traditions. The best way to know what is really important to your faith, is to experience the faith of another.
So this Sunday, we are going to talk about Buddhism, in light of what the Epistle of James teaches us about how to practice a Christian life. We’ll either really intrigue all of those Back to Church guests, or we will send them running from the building. Either way, it should be interesting to watch. See you Sunday!