What is religion
America is religiously pluralistic. Among Americans, this just seems to be common knowledge. But, what is religion? How are we using the term? This is an important question for Christians to consider as we interact with the world around us. It is also important for us because there are those from within who even say things like, “I want to be spiritual, but not religious.” We want to make sure we are all on the same page. Dr. Paul J. Griffiths, Warren Professor of Catholic Theology at Duke Divinity School, has this helpful description of a religion; “A religion is, for those who will have it (or, better, are had by it), principally an account.” From this account, we might learn how the world came to be. Or who God is. In short, the account orders the way things are for us. As Christians in America, we face increasing questions regarding the relation of Christianity and Islam, or Christianity and Buddhism. Griffiths himself holds a degree from Oxford in Sanskrit and Indian Philosophy and a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. So we can be confident that his description of religion encompasses more than Christian priority.
Who did Jesus pray to?
Since our identification of the god we worship is tied up with Jesus of Nazareth, it seems fitting to take our cues from Jesus. Our claim is that we worship and pray to the same god Jesus of Nazareth worshipped and prayed to because it is finally this god who raised Jesus from the dead three days after his crucifixion, as the Apostle Peter identifies in Acts 2:32-33, “This Jesus God raised up…” Seeing as how Peter and his hearers were Hebrews, as was Jesus, we then move to identifying that the god who raised Jesus of Nazareth is the god the Hebrews knew and understood as their god. This identifier is helped along by Peter in his preaching when he connects the great Hebrew king David to Jesus of Nazareth. Peter claims that it was David who first spoke of the resurrection of Jesus centuries before the actual historical event (Acts 2). What this means is that the god who raised Jesus from the dead promised it would happen through David, the king of the Hebrews.
Which god do, we worship here at St. John?
There are several ways to answer that question. The one we will use is this; we worship the god that raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. This answer links the identity of the god we worship at St. John to Jesus of Nazareth. From here, we will look to Jesus of Nazareth to help us flesh out a more precise identification of the god we worship.