Tag Archives: Idols

Walking with God

Living in the Spirit
November 15, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 123
To you I lift up my eyes,
   O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
As the eyes of servants
   look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid
   to the hand of her mistress,
   until he has mercy upon us.

 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
   for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than its fill
   of the scorn of those who are at ease,
   of the contempt of the proud.

Have we as people who identify as God followers lost the ability to walk humbly with our Lord? Have we relegated God to just another strategy to apply as needed to win a political campaign?

I was stunned when I heard someone defending a politician accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl by saying his actions were no different than the actions of Mary and Joseph. The assumption is that God approves the alleged action of the politician. Apparently, the speaker is not well acquainted with the story of the birth of Jesus recorded in Matthew. To the contrary, Joseph went beyond the call of duty by standing by Mary when he had had no sexual relations with Mary saving her from being stoned for becoming pregnant outside of marriage.

It is time for all the people of God to let God be God and for all of us to become the people God created us to be. For most of us that will require repentance and return to God’s leadership.

Prayer: Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
   for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than its fill
   of the scorn of those who are at ease,
   of the contempt of the proud.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Images of our Making

Living in the Spirit
October 9, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 32:1-14

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mould, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.’ They rose early the next day, and offered burnt-offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel. –Exodus 32:1-6

We probably do not think we are as fickle as these folks who escaped from slavery. We need to think about that again. Ours is a society that demands instant gratification. I get upset if my computer buffers at all and even more out of sorts if it continues for any length of time. We are so caught up in instant gratification that car accidents have increased markedly over the past few years because distracted drivers are trying to do too many things at once. If this god doesn’t work the way we want it to, we go in search of one that will. They are called idols.

Idols are not real; they are images of our making. They are like the chocolate bunnies we got as children, hollow on the inside. A paradox exists concerning God having substance we cannot see and idols we can see that have no substance. We experience God in the depths of our being as the very image of God was implanted in us at our beginning. As I stand before a mirror and view my image, I can lift my hand and view the reality of the source of my image. I can see the reality of God in myself and the souls of all God’s other children. We must be open to God’s presence in ourselves and others to relate to God through the depth of our being.

The Israelites were in the infancy of their journey with God, although this certainly was not their first instance of doubt nor the last. We are not different from them today. We try to create God in the image we want God to be. Communing with God requires a life commitment with intentionality of purpose. Such practice is well worth the effort as we draw from the well that never grows dry. (See John 4:14)

Prayer: God, anchor us so deeply in your love that we are not drawn to substitute images of our making for you. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Diversions for Gain

Living in the Spirit
October 2, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Then God spoke all these words: 

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. 

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. –Exodus 20:1-4

I would be remiss in writing anything about the Ten Commandments if I did not recognize the importance of Joan Chittister’s book and study The Ten Commandments: Laws of the Heart, which gave me a new appreciation for the Commandments as a way of being rather than rules to follow.

The concept of the Commandments as a way of being has heightened my concern for our ages’ constricting idol worship to pagans happening centuries ago. While we may have outgrown carved objects as gods or not, we have created a multitude of ready replacements. Money and power perhaps top the list.

I have an even greater concern that we are being divided intentionally by principalities and powers who play our interests against each other dividing us to conquer us. Diversions for gain is nothing new it is at least as old as the oldest prophetic book in the Bible, Amos. The similarities between the people of Israel before their fall to Assyria and the United States today are chilling. The Israelites were investing their time and energies in short-term rewards without concern for long-term consequences.

Prayer: Lord, open our minds and hearts to your will for our lives. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Taking a Knee

Living in the Spirit
September 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 12:1-14

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

 This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance. –Exodus 12:12-14

We cannot imagine worshiping a carved image or even a natural phenomenon ascribed sacred status like the gods of Egypt. Much of the Hebrew Bible deals with the challenge of idols mostly those of other nations distracting the Hebrew people from their monotheistic commitment to God. The interesting thing about idols is that one can project onto them whatever properties one desires of a god as idols are void of purpose or meaning.

I fear, idols, by other names, are just as confounding for us today.The collection of things, materialism, is a current idol that has existed for some time and is easy to identify. We must have the latest phone, TV, shoes, etc. We tsk, tsk ourselves about it as we hand our credit cards to pay for our latest “Just gotta have it.” What about the idols that are so much a part of our lives, we do not recognize them?

I was surprised by the NFL’s position and much of the public’s response to the football player, Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the national anthem in protest of the rampant racism in our land. Taking a knee in most cases is a sign of humility, not an insult. Could Mr. Kaepernick have been saying in his action that racism goes against everything for which our country stands? All [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness*. When we do not subscribe to the basic values of our country we are dishonoring it. Have we reduced the flag of our country to an idol, an empty shell with only the meaning we chose to give it rather than our country’s defined identity?

Racism might not be an epidemic, had faith communities followed the tenets of God recognizing that God created all humans in God’s own image and all humans are thus God’s people. God who commanded us to love God and to love one another set the standard for living within the framework of our creation.

Do we imagine Joshua doing the ancient equivalent of taking a knee when he spoke these words recorded in Joshua 24:15:

Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’

Perhaps we all need to take a knee whether in the stadium to support the defined identity of our country or in our houses of worship regarding our relationship with God as we decide who we serve.

Prayer: Lord, open the windows of our hearts and help us to see that which is so ingrained we accept it as normal. Forgive us of our sins of commission, when we discriminated against any other. Forgive us of our sins of omission when we stand idly by allowing racism to exist. Empower us to do justice. Amen.

*From the US Declaration of Independence

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Graven Images

Ark of the CovenantLiving in the Spirit
July 6, 2015

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. –2 Samuel 6:1-5

I was raised in a faith tradition that took very seriously the second commandment: You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (Exodus 20)  We used the term “graven image” from the King James translation. For some reason it sounds more ominous than idol to me. A simple empty cross was about the only art in the sanctuary. We did have pictures of events in the Bible. This was, I believe, my church’s attempt to live the second commandment.

David’s exuberance over the return of the Ark of the Covenant was about stability returning to Israel, which had been at war for some time. It was actually a rare event to see the Ark for most of its existence it was tucked away in the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest saw it at special times.

A carved monument displaying the Ten Commandments was donated for use at the Oklahoma State Capitol a few years ago and has been the source of controversy ever since. In response a satanic group has applied to erect a statue of Satan near the Ten Commandment monument. The decision to allow the satanic statue was put on hold awaiting an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Ten Commandment monument. Recently they ruled the display of the Ten Commandment stone was unconstitutional. Now a group is talking about a vote of the people to change the constitution.

Because there are so many critical issues facing our state, I tend to agree with the prophet Joel when he said: rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. (Joel 2:13) Rather than displaying the Ten Commandments like an idol, we need to live them.

Prayer: O Lord, create in us clean hearts and right spirits for the facing of this hour. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Film on our Glasses

Dirty GlassesLiving in the Spirit
September 5, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Romans 13:8-14

 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; — Romans 13:11-12

There seems to be an epidemic in our world today of people being thunderstruck. Some are so frozen by the noise of violence, economic disaster, and disharmony they are rendered unable to hear or otherwise perceive what we need to do to fix these issues. Everyone wants the problems solved without their having to make any sacrifices to make it happen. It doesn’t work that way.

The Bible is full of stories that illustrate that we have to face the consequences of our own actions.  The phrases “He did not do what was right in the sight of God” or “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord” precede reports of battles lost or people taken into captivity. This is the story line in most of the events that led up to the fall of Israel and later Judah and the resulting exile. In many instances what was “not right with God” was the worship of lesser gods.

We have few statues to which we bow in reverence but we do practice idolatry in our world today.  The love of money is high on our priorities, lust for power would run it a good competition, and self-pleasure seeking is certainly in the top ten list.

Paul admonishes us to wake up from sleep and to put on the armor of light. We are children of the living God, we do not have to rely on these lesser gods. But as children of God we are called to do what is right in the eyes of God. What is right is what is loving. Loving requires us to see through the eyes of God. Things clear up when we clean our human glasses and stop seeing the world through the film that has accumulated in our vision. Sometimes that accumulation is so great that we cannot clean it ourselves, but God can. Starting today, let us ask God for his help in creating in us clean hearts and right spirits.

Prayer:  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.
              Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
               and sustain in me a willing spirit. Amen –Psalm 51:10-12

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.