September 25, 2021

Forge of Idols

Do not go after other gods to serve and worship them.
Jeremiah 25:6
People who believe in a single God are quick to condemn those who worship many gods as idolaters. And yet, as John Calvin said, "the human mind is a perpetual forge of idols." We need no formal belief system as an excuse to create replacements for the Divine in our own minds. From beginning to end, the Bible tells us to put our faith in God and God alone. And yet we often (usually?) trust more in the power of wealth or politics or romance or family than we do in God. 

There's a second way we misunderstand God, and that is in the places we find God. We think of God as being present in church sanctuaries more than in other places. Or we might even think of a beautiful spot in nature as a place where we can meet God over and above the more mundane places where we find ourselves in everyday life. Though we should seek quiet places where we can pray or meditate, it is not the place itself that is holy, but the time that we have dedicated to prayer. God created everything, and no location is any more or less sacred than any place else.

And finally, and perhaps most perniciously, there's a third way that we might forge idols, and that's when we think too highly of ourselves. And in this, the church is one of the main culprits. We think of some people as indispensable. They are needed to keep the church functioning. We encourage all people to dedicate themselves to service to the congregation, and some of us come to see ourselves as being needed by God. Service is a need God meets in human lives, not vice versa. To find wholeness, we need to use our gifts for the body of Christ. God, who is already whole, will be just fine without this person on consistory or that person serving as deacon.

God cannot be replaced by anyone or anything, and God is found everywhere in creation. It's good for us to serve God, but better to remember that God exists independent of us. It's fine to be inspired by images or places, but better to remember what lies behind the inspiration. When we remember these things, we have taken the first step toward understanding the true nature of God.

The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.
 Acts 17:24-25
Prayer after thinking about today's devotion:
O for a closer walk with God, 
a calm and heavenly frame, 
a light to shine upon the road 
that leads me to the Lamb! 
The dearest idol I have known, 
whate’er that idol be,
help me to tear it from thy throne, 
and worship only thee.
 William Cowper (1772)
✙ 
After your own thanksgivings & petitions, close with the Lord's Prayer.

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