Lenten Series: Giving It Up
Sermon: Giving Up: Idolatry
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
March 4, 2018
Scriptures: Exodus 20:1-17 CEB and John 2:13-22 CEB
It has been a rough week. Fear strikes close to home as we are called to shelter in place, lock our doors, and wonder where the shooter has gone. Finally, at 1 A.M. Saturday morning an all-clear. The gunman was in custody. We are grateful to law enforcement officers and dogs who worked tirelessly on our behalf. Our prayers continue for the Davis family whose world will never be the same. We can only imagine what motivated this horrific act of violence, son against parents. It is a story old as time, as they say. Cain and Abel. Violence used to solve a dispute, to settle an issue, to give one power over another.
Unfortunately, this was not the only example of the worship of power this week. Putin brags through the press that he has a limitless-range nuclear missile, giving him power over the whole planet. Millions of people converse/argue over the right to bear arms Ė and why any civilian should have access to military-style weapons, after the Florida shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.
Humans make gods of whatever they think will bring them the outcome they desire, whether itís a weapon to keep them in control of any situation or a Bible interpretation that proves their side is right, so they ďwinĒ the argument. We may win the fight but lose our souls. Jesus warned us about this.
The Old Testament is filled with dozens of times that the worship of idols was the thing that caused the downfall of the people God was trying to lead to a land of promise. The commandments of God lay out clearly for us that we are to love God above all else, not giving power over to any created thing Ė no graven image, no shrine or totem, no sacred poles, no gold, silver or bronze. The cultures the Israelites lived among worshiped such things. They had household gods, the gods of their ancestors, to whom they prayed and sacrificed.
When visiting Israel, we saw a circular altar where children were sacrificed to these foreign gods Ė a practice that was forbidden by the God of Israel. After recent events I find myself wondering if we havenít fallen back into a willingness to sacrifice our children as we worship idols of power and mass destruction. We are quick to say we should proliferate and slow to do the hard work of relationship building, caring for peopleís health and well-being and truly loving our neighbor, in the same fashion we love God and ourselves.
Idol worship is insidious. It infiltrates our psyche by making us promises that idols canít keep. If I have this thing, it will keep me safe from harm. If I dress this way, I will be popular and have lots of friends. If I take this drug, all my troubles will go away. If I sell this drug I will be rich. Wealth and power, the great idols of our age. Some things never change.
There is so much idol worship around us we have grown numb to it and we have stopped noticing the promises made that these idols canít keep. And yet, we continue to buy what they are selling, like poisoned Kool-Aid to take us to some other world, but that world is without hope, without a future, and without the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Godís love for us is steadfast. As many times as Godís people have wandered off, God has called us back into relationship, offering us grace and mercy. We, like all people, need strength against the temptation to think that something other than God can keep us secure. Come back from the high mountain overlooking the wealth of the world, and like Jesus, say no. I will not put the Lord to the test. I will not bow to evil in exchange for all the wealth and power in the world. I will love the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul and strength and will love my neighbor, all my neighbors, the way I love my self.
Jesusí way is the way. To believe this is the basic definition of what it takes to be a Christian. To live Jesusí way, embodying the willingness to sacrifice personal comfort for the sake of anotherís well-being is the Christian walk. To do the harder thing out of love for another, is the Christian walk. To take the less profitable route that brings the common good, is the Christian walk. To confess we have wronged another, we have worshipped other gods and now we repent, wishing to be cleansed of the guilt of sin, is the Christian walk.
As you come forward to receive Communion this morning, you are walking the walk of a Christian; leaving the world of greed and hunger for power behind, coming to Jesus to be fed the bread of life and the cup of salvation. This is the practice of the Christian. We come together, as Christís body in the world today, seeking to live Godís kingdom way of life. May it be so. Amen.