February 7, 2019

My Culture's gods

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise.
Ps. 138:1 

Psalm 138 opens in a very straightforward manner. To offer my whole heart to the One God is to sing God's praises in the presence of all gods that are no gods. Of course this psalm couldn't possibly pertain to me.

Except, it does. At least the ancients knew what they were doing when they bowed down to images of Baal and Isis and Marduk. My culture's gods, though no less visible, are much more surreptitious. When I hand my life over to the power of money or technology or political ideology, I am doing the opposite of what the psalmist does in Psalm 138:1.

Singing God's praise before the gods, therefore, isn't as simple as going to church or saying my prayers. And I can't even claim to be that successful at it. To live in a materialistic culture is no less a danger to monotheism than living in ancient Babylon or Greece would have been. Other gods hold sway here, and the worship of those gods permeates everything. To give my heart to God completely is not just an act of worship, it is an act of protest and an act of separation from the culture that surrounds me. It's easy to talk about—and millions talk about it a lot—but difficult to do.

John Calvin's personal seal featured a heart in a hand, and the motto, My heart I offer you, Lord, promptly and sincerely. At the risk of placing Calvin above God's word (yet another false god!) I think that's a good thing to remember. When I can truly offer to God my heart without hesitation, then I will be able to sing God's praise in the presence of all that is not God.

My heart I offer you, O Lord, promptly and sincerely. Accept it for your service, I pray, and may all other gods melt away in my esteem, leaving you alone. In the Name of him who taught me to pray...

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