Sunday, August 1, 2010

Forest and Trees 2: American Idols

Return with me to the old question about whether there are any coincidences with God. I’ve been thinking for a couple of days about the next post on the Forest and the Trees, and then the lectionary readings today (and Bill’s sermon) were on exactly one of the points I’ve been turning around. The readings were Ecclesiastes’ commentary on the vanity of material things (various), Paul’s direct equation of covetousness with idolatry (Col 3:5) and Jesus’ parable of the foolish man who wanted to build bigger barns, explaining the folly of laying up treasure with ourselves rather than with the Father (Lk 12:13-21).

So, can we metaphorically replace in our minds the picture of the sins of Israel and Judah in worshipping Baal in our reading of the Minor Prophets with the both ancient and contemporary sin of worshipping “stuff” ?

I guess I’m too much of an economist to give any other answer other than, “Well, Yes and No.”

The “Yes” comes straight from all three readings today, particularly from Paul. Anything other than God that we center into our lives to provide ultimate meaning is a replacement for God. If we make money or cars or status or success or clothes or beauty or youthfulness the source of meaning in our lives, making them the source of greed for more and more and ever more, then we are in every sense worshiping that substitute god as an idol.

The “No” part comes from our relationship with Christ as imperfect disciples. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8). Each and every one of our brothers and sisters in the community are with some sin, so it’s not unlikely that many of us will struggle with the covetousness Paul has warned us about. But this is not the end of John’s message. He continues “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1: 9). But many of the people in the time of the prophets had actually abandoned Yahweh for Baal. The metaphor of “Us” and “Israel” fits from Paul to Amos or Hosea via our sin if we are sinning and rejecting the Love of God and redemption of Christ, but it does not fit if we remain the children of God and ask him to forgive and change us. I believe that sin plus the rejection of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit may be the “unpardonable” sin Jesus describes in Mark 3:28-30, but there are undoubtedly many people more knowledgeable than I am on this passage.

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