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Religion as recreation
July 18, 2011
by Pastor Mike Nelson, Triune Lutheran Church, Cokato

We are in the season of the year when many of us are taking vacations. I think it would be a safe to assume that most people spend the biggest share of their summer vacations doing some form of recreational activity. Boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling, water sports, camping, and outdoor activities are all common forms of recreation.

But, based on attendance figures during the summer months in most churches, even churches in prime vacation areas where many people go to vacation, there are many who also take a vacation from church. This is unfortunate because an hour each Sunday in worship can also be “recreational,” in a sense.

The root word in “recreation” is “creation.” Recreation is any activity that is intended to help restore our life and vitality, anything that serves to help us become renewed or re-created.

Religious worship is one kind of activity in which we can involve ourselves that recreates. One main purpose of community worship is to restore the worshippers.

It has almost become a cliché for some people to say, “I’m a spiritual person, but I am not religious.” But as Brian McLaren writes in his book, “Naked Spirituality: A life with God in 12 Simple Words,” the characteristics of a spiritual life are also at the heart of true religion.

McLaren points out that the root word of “religion” is “lig,” meaning to connect, as a ligament connects a muscle to a bone. Religion is meant to bring people together to connect them again in a spirit of unity and wholeness. Such kinds of activity are, in essence, recreating, reconnecting people with one another and with their Creator.

As the psalmist writes in Psalm 51:10-11, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.”

May your vacation time this summer be truly re-creational. As you recreate, try to spend some time reconnecting spiritually with your Creator.