A week or so ago I read an article about a survey concerning religion that was taken by an organization that makes many surveys of religious groups. The results of the survey showed that on forms where people are asked to identify their religion, the number of those who marked “none” had gone up quite a bit, almost alarmingly for those of us who are part of what we call “organized religion.” It’s true especially of young people.
They seem not to feel the need for an attachment to a church or an institutional religious body. At first I felt discouraged by this, but I’m sure we all understand that it’s happening. More and more people say, “None,” when they’re asked what their religious affiliation is. But as I listened in my own heart and spirit to today’s readings, I found a lot to be encouraged about because if you think about it, organized religion came kind of late in history.
You go back to Abraham in the book of Genesis and when God called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees and told him to leave his family, leave his place, and God would establish him as a new nation, Abraham left everything and followed where God led. But then nothing seemed to be happening. When we get to the part in Genesis, which was our lesson today, we find Abraham asking God, “You have given me no children. When will it happen?”
This is many, many years later. Then the word of God was spoken to him. God took him outside and said to him, “Look up at the sky. Count the stars if you can. Your descendants will be like them.” Here’s the important point: Abraham believed God. Because of this, it helped Abraham to be just. What that means is that he was in a right relationship with God. There was no organized religion. There was no Jewish religion, no Islamic religion, and no Christian religion…