Bible Readings for Saturday July 16th, 2011
– The Week of The 5th Sunday After Pentecost
*Click on each bible passage to expand the text.11. Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
12. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
13. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14. O God, the insolent rise up against me; a band of ruffians seeks my life, and they do not set you before them.
15. But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16. Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the child of your serving girl.
17. Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame, because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.18. They do not know, nor do they comprehend; for their eyes are shut, so that they cannot see, and their minds as well, so that they cannot understand.
19. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals, I roasted meat and have eaten. Now shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?”
20. He feeds on ashes; a deluded mind has led him astray, and he cannot save himself or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a fraud?”15. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
16. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?
17. In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
18. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
19. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
- Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. – Psalm 86:11
- No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals, I roasted meat and have eaten. Now shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” – Isaiah 44:19
- Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. – Matthew 7:19
“Is not this thing in my right hand a fraud?”
Some of you (including myself) might be starting to think that I am obsessed with idolatry lately. I’ve been writing about it many times over the last few weeks (and I think I’ve been making some rather good points, too, but I am biased…):
- Daily Devotion: Who Would Fashion a God… That Can Do No Good?
- Daily Devotion: Fornication and Idolatry
- Daily Devotion: From Gays to American Idols
But you see, I just write on the passages the Revised Common Lectionary (The RCL) gives me. And lately, it seems the RCL has been trying to “pound the nail home” (probably a poor choice of words when writing about Christianity) regarding idolatry.
I am a bit worried I am starting to sound like I’m “beating a dead horse” here (another questionable colloquialism), but these RCL readings are making really good points, and I am compelled to expound upon them! Why? Because in my humble estimation, modern Christians have become nothing but idolaters who mistake the symbol/object for the subject and are consequently rendered impotent for God’s purposes for the Kingdom on Earth.
In today’s passage from Isaiah 44, we hear more about the man who worships an idol of wood. He cooks with it, he heats his house with it, then he carves his god from it and worships it.
20. He feeds on ashes; a deluded mind has led him astray, and he cannot save himself or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a fraud?”
Do you honestly think when Christ admonished us to “carry our cross” he meant a palm-sized piece of wood??
24. Then Yeshua said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”
Have we really become so far-distanced from the reality of Christ that we think this way? Christ wanted us to adopt the very way of living, of selfless compassion, and unending justice that get you nailed to a cross by the powers that be!
Reversing God’s Accomplishments
An even more devastating is the realization that The Anointed One died in order to remove any last separation between you and the divine, finally and forever. Symbolically, we know this is true because when The Anointed One died, the curtain of the Holy of Holies in the temple, where only the High Priest could enter, was torn in two, allowing all access to God:
37. Then Yeshua uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. 38. And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
And what have we instinctively done? We’ve created artificial gateways to God again: the priest or pastor, the cross, the Eucharist… all are simply tools of faith, not the actual source of the divine! Once again, we have created idols, and have mistaken the object for the subject.
Recently, a very close friend of ours invited Char and I to visit her new church, a giant Lutheran mega-church (2500+ strong). The service was modern, the multi-million dollar facilities were gorgeous, and the pastor was handsome, yet unassuming. And still, I was horrified by the whole experience:
- No one talked to or greeted one another. No passing of the peace, no welcome, no fellowship afterward… I have never felt so alone amongst so many people.
- The sheer amount of money invested in the building was an abomination. State-of-the-art sound design/architecture, state-of-the-art lighting… with that amount of money, I couldn’t help but wonder how many lives could have been changed forever in a part of the world where the average income make less than a dollar a day, instead making sure thousands of middle-to-upper-class butts had a soft spot to sit?
But the most telling experience is when our friend turned to us and said, “Isn’t Pastor Mark amazing? I don’t even come here when he’s not preaching. I just don’t feel it.”
That’s when I that the pastor had become the object of worship to her.
The Cure for Idolatry
Believe it or not, in a sense, the cure for rampant idolatry is to make everything an “idol”.
I know, I’m really hard to understand, but stay with me: if where we’re “missing the mark” today is the fact we’re imbuing objects with the divine, then the easy way to stop this practice is to imbue everything with the divine.
Then nothing can be singled out, nothing can be the “source” of the divine when God is in all things.
5. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6. one God and Father of all, who is over everything, through everything, and in everything.
77. Jesus said, “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained.
Split a piece of wood; I am there.
Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”
Is Christ in the pastor at my friend’s church? Yes, but Christ is also in the cleaning lady who vacuums between the seats after the services. Can we pick one over the other to worship? Nope.
Is God is a beautiful sunset? Yes, but God is also in a quiet conversation with my best friend, and in the sound of the organ at a church. Can we pick one over the other as our form of worship? Nope.
Is truth in the bible? Yes, but truth is also found in the rambling tale of a 5 year old child, and in this weekend’s blockbuster movie. Can we pick one over the other as the only source of truth? Nope.
Do you see? You can’t have an “idol” when there isn’t one single source of Christ, God, or truth!
But we must be discerning, and measure everything against the Great Commandments: Love your God and Neighbor.
1 Corinthians 10
23. All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. 25. Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake; 26. FOR THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S, AND ALL IT CONTAINS.