Posted By Nan

John 10:1-21
As a child I was amazed, overwhelmed, full of wonder at the natural world. When my children were little I tried to instil that wonder in them also and was delighted as they responded. I still catch my breath in awe at a magical sunset. At a full moon. At a majestic cloud. At a beautiful tree. At nature. When I am cut off from nature I lose my sense of self.
The child, full of the wonder of nature. Of what God has created. Of God’s life in all nature. That child has a full soul. The child naturally worships God. But organised religion that has become about creed, discipline, habit, authority, the past takes the wonder away from the child and strips away its soul. Then in the emptiness the child walks away from God because he sees God as being religious institutions. But the child knows the real God. He has just been deceived by a false shepherd into believing that a man-made institution with its rules and regulations devised by man is the true shepherd. The determined child will continue to worship God but will know that worship as “New Age movement” or some “anti God” worship. But in fact the child is worshipping God. Because God is about faith, worship, life, today, and the voice of compassion. It is just sad the child does not understand He is still worshipping God and does not understand the true joy of following the true shepherd. His wonder at God’s creation has been undermined by the lies of false shepherds who would have him believe God is in a church or a man-made institution.
Enfeebled religion is not sufficiently moved by human compassion and exalted by passionate admiration of the universe. That is what religious institutions become when they put their institution and its regulations ahead of God.
It is important to remember that as strong followers of God, we should give more offence and take a stronger stand for the weak rather than considering the possible right of the strong. This is the opposite of what many religious institutions say we should do. I love the Noel Richards song about Dangerous People.

Here we are Lord more weak than strong
Still believing still pressing on
Make us ready with hearts that are brave
We will silence the lies of this age
For such a moment we have been born
We're gonna rise up take this world by storm
Let evil tremble we come in His name
Our God is with us we're dangerous people
All God's heroes failed as we do
Sometimes doubting all that is true
Yet He calls us great people of faith
Working through us as hist'ry is made

We may be weak, but we are stronger than we realise, than religious institutions want us to believe. We are strong in the wonder of the small child who accepts God’s creation without question.
These ideas were expressed in a book by Matthew Fox about Hildegard of Bingen. Studying Hildegard of Bingen has led me to a deeper understanding of these current scriptures I am exploring and a deeper understanding of following God. It is the difference between the trusting sheep, following its master’s voice or the lost sheep trying to do it on its own with rules and regulations.
I am reminded of a friend who started her counselling practice by buying books of frameworks to follow rather than listening to her clients and trusting God to give her the insights and words. In doing this, she failed to connect to the richness of God’s gifts in her that He intended her to use to bless others. The uncertainty of stepping out into the void of the unknown can be so overwhelming that people would rather cling to the rules and regulations rather than clinging to God. God takes us into the unknown. He gives us what we need to survive. We may be clinging on for dear life because we don’t trust God to guide us. Or we may, like a child, sit comfortably in God’s hand and delight at His guidance in our lives. This is the difference between following Jesus and trying to follow a path we have decided is the correct one to follow. In my life I have observed that when I step off the path to follow what I have decided is the correct one, I find myself facing disaster.
In our walk through life in this postmodern world it is important to remember that such lofty goals as education are about cultivating wisdom through cultivating creativity not what the current world tells us as knowledge for powers sake.
Remember that life is preferable to religion. God is the God of life not the God of religion.
Hildegard of Bingen spoke often of the lukewarmness of the religious institutions of her day. This lukewarmness still exists. Using the old meanings of the 12th century, lukewarmness is defined as inertia, sadness, depression, boredom, cynicism, couchpotatoitis and passivity. Those are things many of us can recognise in ourselves. It is challenging to consider honestly that definition and identify where you or I fall into lukewarmness.
The converse of lukewarmness is zeal. This word has its origin in the description of the intense experience of the beauty of things. This brings us back to the small child who is full of wonder at the presence of God in all creation around her.
As followers of Jesus we should be like the small child, full of wonder at all God has created through the Word and full of wonder at the Word in all creation. That is true following of Jesus. That is the voice the sheep who listens hears and follows. May we never, through our ignorance, switch off that wonder in others. But may we instead follow that wonder ourselves.

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