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From The Pulpit: What is a true religions fanatic?

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Bible 1

I will admit at the beginning that I am kind of a spiritual fanatic, no matter what you mean by spiritual. My background is Christian.

My background calls me to see that the world we live in is really not my world or our world, but God’s world. Thinking about the world that way changes every assumption I make about why we are even on this particular planet or world and what assumptions we make about "how" we live on this world.

Traveling to Roanoke or Danville, for example, I find this world fascinating. I notice that every tree is different from all the others, with every group of branches on one tree different from the branches on its neighbor, even if the neighbor is the same type of tree. I also notice that even the cars that are similar make and model really don't look alike; the dirt, the light reflecting off them, the people driving them are all different.

All the creatures are different, too, at least on the outside. I've never seen two people look alike, even twins and triplets, although they may think you are kind of weird if you look TOO closely. No two dogs or cats or cows or even flies seem to look alike, either. They certainly don't behave alike, either, although some flies seem to be more irritating to me than others. I think cats’ purrs and dogs’ barks are all different also.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that God’s world is really different from my world. My world tends to try to put everything in a model that I can categorize. Ah, that tree is this kind, that dog is that brand, that fly is this kind, that person is like that person. God’s world I think isn’t like that at all. In God’s world, in the spiritual view, every creature, every tree, every rock, every snowflake is unique and is put here for a specific purpose, God’s purpose, not mine.

What that really means is my categories for what’s right and wrong, what’s correct and incorrect, are not the real measuring stick. Actually, my categories are completely wrong, because it's not my world but God’s world. The hardest thing for me is to come to acknowledge that simple belief.

My spiritual fanaticism makes me suspect this is one of the major issues facing our world today. It is very hard to learn that it isn’t my world or our world but God’s, and to figure out the difference between those two attitudes. When we manage to see the difference comes a serious need to figure out what is needed spiritually that will enable us to live and nurture and love this world that doesn't belong to us.

Developing a spiritual sense that this is God’s place suggests we are called to share our world with all the many things that are not ours. I cannot imagine a world with no flies, no dogs, no cats, no lions, no elephants, no rhinoceros, no gentle rains and no bees. Sadly, this seems to be slowly what is happening because we are surely making this world ours. I think many people in this place in which we live and move and have our being need to realize it doesn't really belong to us.

My spirituality leads me to believe we are here to love and cherish this world as God’s, to keep it with all the beauty, variety and constant surprise that it offers us. We need to be reminded that it is not my or our world, but God’s. We are here to sustain all the living creatures in the world so that it will be here for the generations that will follow us after we die to know and cherish.

I will miss the wild salmon, the grizzly bear, the whooping cranes, the polar bear, the Florida panther, the Canadian lynx, the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, all of whom are endangered in God’s world. They are all beautiful creatures who presently share this world with us. So many humans apparently don't care if they disappear, including many with the power to keep them in the world.

If we don’t acknowledge it isn’t our world but God’s, we humans also may become just like those endangered animals mentioned above. Whose world will it be then? Probably God’s, but it sure won’t be ours.

I hope you will join me in changing things so we don’t wait too long in affirming to all our world that it is really God’s. If we keep pretending the world is ours, we humans will probably just become another group who is endangered.

Gene Anderson is the pastor of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 904 Fayette St. in Martinsville.

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