Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The assumption of idolatory

Paul writing to the Galatians states  'the Gospel I preached is not made up' (Gal. 1.11) having first lambasted the Galatian readers for having so quickly turned away from that Gospel (Gal 1. 5-9). The passage from 1 Kings is the end of the contest between Elijah and the priests of Ba'al (1 Kings 18.30-39).  Both of these are in contrast to the Gospel story of the Centurion in Luke (Lk 7.1-10) which describes the faith displayed by one outside of the religious community.  These stories for me turn on the ease in which we are persuaded to move away from the Gospel to other idols in our daily lives.

We so easily assume idols into our daily lives forgetting the promulgation of the Gospel in our lives.  In doing so we make a mockery of our Christian journey and faith.  Last week in speaking about the Trinity I observed that we can so easily turn each aspect of the Trinity into a divisive and idolatrous idol by the way we worship.  In truth we can so easily turn the everyday into an idol as we live and work within a secular society that has limited, if no understanding of the sacred. We latch on to those things that are made sacred by the society in which we live and turn away from our own knowledge of the sacred.  I am sure that we can name a few without even thinking too hard; the Dockers, the Eagles (West Coast or the band), Taylor Swift, Michael Jackson, the Beatles, etc.  In Kings this worship of the ordinary is shown by the move of the Israelites towards the Ba'al. What we are doing is turning our modern icons into 'Lords' or Ba'al as rendered in the semitic languages of the Middle East.

Is this what religion and Christianity is about?  Where is Christ?

The secular nature of Australian society leads us away from the numinous as it becomes less a language we engage in and more of a hidden gnosis.  Our icons in the modern age become our Lords as we follow their progress on Facebook, twitter, instagram, etc.  Just like religious converts in ages past we become extreme supporters (believers) and will hear nothing to the detriment of our chosen idol.  Just as with any convert, the zeal in which we follow the idol of the day can and indeed may often lead to violence, just as any other religious zealotry (Crusades, Muslim terrorism, etc).  Yet, as we well know such fervour is often short lived as we switch from one icon to the next in an never ending round of searching for meaning.  The shallowness of our zeal renders us unable to search for the numinous and the reality of spiritual life.  We are left spinning in a world that appears to be moving out of control as we try to find a meaningful centre to our lives.  This behaviour can be seen stretching through millennia and faithfully reported in the Scriptures as with the confrontation with the priests of Ba'al.

The question for us is a simple one. Can we in the context of modern society have the faith to stand up and denounce the prophets of Ba'al in today's secular society?  We have lost our space in the public square as a result of the concerted push of consumerism and the faithless religion of secularism, modern atheism.  We no longer have the words to appeal to modern humanity, to speak of our faith journey within the context of society as we leave our tools within the worship service unable to translate the abundance of grace into our daily lives.  It is the lived life that has the greatest impact on our communities not our words.  In Luke it is the centurion's lived life that impresses Christ not his faithless words.  It is when we bein to abandon the idols of our modern society and start to live into Christ that we begin to understand the riches and grace that abounds within our faith journey.

In taking up the way once more, the way that our fellow Christians in the early days of the Christian journey knew and understood, we become different to the rest of the society around us.  We proclaim that difference in the way we do things, in the way we operate within the constraints of society.  Christian's did not participate int he games of ancient Rome and yet we participate in the games of modern society.  Our word in the public sphere has been lost because we do not stand up for the truth any longer only the words that society wish to hear or have placed within our mouths.  We cannot move as Christians because we are hampered by the preconceptions that we have created to camouflage our identities.  Like submarines we crawl beneath the surface hiding ourselves from the people around us, embattled within our own tombs.  To display our faith means living our faith.  The centurion was not afraid and he above all would have been called in by the authorities for his proclamation of that faith.  Why are we so afraid?

No comments: