A Sermon preached at the
“You shall not make for
yourself a graven image [or an idol]
whether in the form of anything that is heaven above,
or that is on the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth.”
what sort of text is that for the 21st Century??
I mean when did you last pop in to B&Q
to buy a bit of wood to make a graven image for the mantelpiece?
OK, maybe if you’ve just arrived at university for the first time
you might have secretly smuggled a teddy bear to University this week.
But whilst that might technically count
as something made in the image of an animal –
I don’t think that’s quite what the writer of Exodus had in mind.
much more worried about the gods
Dagon, Molech, Baal and Asherah – the patron gods of Canaan –
whose statues and images were revered and deferred to
in every street and home
nicely lets us off the hook –
how lucky that the preacher today –
with all those awkward commandments
about coveting and stealing and killing to pick from –
has managed to chose the only one where we are in the clear.
Whatever else we’re into, we’re OK on graven images.
Or are we?
An idol is
· anything you put in the place of God.
· whatever usurps the place of God in your life.
· Whatever become the ultimate and determining reality for you.
that basis, maybe we all need to do a little spiritual stock taking
& check indeed whether we have idols in our life.
Ask yourself this -
what are the most important things in your life?
If you could keep just one treasured possession, one relationship and one quality of life –
what 3 things would you choose???
Think about that for a minute -
· Job, career, status, self respect
· House, car, possessions
· Family, friends, nation
· Church, club, ideology
· Sex, drugs, rock’n’roll
Then when you’ve got your list –
(a) Give thanks for all those things you had to choose between
(b) Ask - Could you give those sorts of things up if need be?
God does not always ask us to do things like that –
but if he did, what then?
When you grapple with questions like that
you are dealing with the lure of the idol –
that which replaces God at the centre of your life.
of rock n roll –
have you seen what is no 1 in the pop charts this week?
The Long and Winding Road sung by of all people heaven help us
Will Young and Gareth Gates –
shot to stardom by coming first and second in the TV show Pop Idol.
So many idols to pick from.
rabbi was asked why God didn’t just destroy all idols
instead of merely telling people not to worship them.
The rabbi replied
“Have you seen how many things in the world people choose to worship?
They worship the sun and the moon,
their houses and money, their nation and culture –
even other human beings.
If God destroyed all that we might worship, nothing would be left.”
dangerous idols are often the not the manifestly evil things,
but the potentially good things.
Things which when offered to God in his service provide rich blessings.
But if those same things are used instead
to replace God at the centre of things –
then the abused and misused good can becomes a curse not a blessing.
And all the more dangerous because it is dressed in such noble clothes.
who have been to the Northcott Theatre this week
will have seen Arthur Miller’s harrowing All My Sons –
A munitions factory owner is accused
of turning out faulty cylinder heads from his factory.
The plot hinges on the question:
Has he caused the deaths of 20 innocent young men
in order to protect the wealth of the family business
so that he can pass it on to his sons?
In other words has the virtuous love of his family
become disproportionate, a heroic virtue twisted into a tragic flaw?
Even love of family –
when it becomes an absolute before which all else must give way –
becomes idolatry which denies God’s will –
For ultimately God is greater than family or nation
or any other vested interest we may have –
for every child of every race and every family is his daughter, his son –
And any partisanship (however loving and well meaning)
is ultimately the erecting of a tribal totem,
a placing of an idol on the family mantelpiece.
read of Iraq and America,
remember that ultimate loyalty is due
not to any faction, family, race or nation, but to God of all.
be replaced as a focus of worship & ultimate concern
by any group or institution – not even the Church.
Lean’s Bridge over the River Kwai,
A battalion of British soldiers in a Japanese Prisoner of war Camp
is compelled to build a bridge
that will facilitate the movement of enemy troops.
For the sake of morale, the senior British officer played by Alec Guiness
insists that they build a bridge of which they can be proud.
He himself becomes obsessed with the material structure,
and loses sight of the whole purpose of the war,
he forgets whose side he is fighting on,
and when allied troops move in to dynamite the bridge,
he nearly succeeds in frustrating the sabotage attempt.
bridge became to the colonel,
so can the Church become to Christians –
a structure, a building,
to be idolised and worshipped and preserved at all costs,
mere structure that takes on more importance
than the whole campaign of God
and may even becomes a hindrance to his work.
sorting out what we are to do with this building
and this site and this congregation.
Lets be clear about one thing –
Christ has come to build a Kingdom, not a Church –
even the Church is only a means to an end,
and ultimately an expendable means.
Maybe one day God will call us to blow up, knock down or sell up these premises –
Maybe now, maybe in a 100 years –
the main thing is that we ask the right questions.
If – as we may do –
we decide to keep and enhance and develop this site and this building it must be
NOT because the Mint Chapel is our private totem god
that we have created and cherish and can’t bear to let go –
BUT because we believe in Kingdom values
and spreading God’s love & peace in this city –
and because we see this building as –
for the time being – serving that purpose.
God on the throne, not Church, or Bible or worship pattern.
We must be driven by a vision of the Kingdom of God, nothing less.
upon a time there were workers in a vineyard.
Their ultimate allegiance was not to the owner of the vineyard
but to their own pockets.
That allegiance gradually corrupted them.
When finally the owner sent his son to visit them they killed him –
for he stood between them and their primary loyalty,
to their wealth and career and future.
They did not know that in killing him
they were turning their backs on the very source of life itself.
May we be ready to welcome Christ when he comes into our lives.
word to those beginning University courses today –
but what I say really applies to us all in one way or another –
for each of us today is the beginning of the rest of our life.
What are your priorities and allegiances and commitments going to be?
You have a choice –
create idols around which to live your life
(you have probably already started on the production process).
Do this and gradually you will become the victim of your own creation –
you will go the way of Victor Frankenstein
and discover that your creation turns on you,
and you become a prisoner trapped by things of your own making.
can turn to Christ as your ultimate guide.
He will not sit on your mantelpiece and allow you to control him –
or put him in your pocket -
Yet neither will he imprison you and demean and impoverish you.
Rather he will stride off down the road –
and bid you like Moses fresh down from Sinai,
to follow him into the unknown.
not promise an easy life, -
indeed in the words of the song, his is often a long and winding road –
following where the spirit wills and where the shepherd leads.
It may not always feel as safe as sitting at home with your household idols –
but you will have the wind of the spirit blowing fresh in your face
and the cloud and fire of Gods presence before you –
though it be a long and winding road,
it will lead assuredly to the door of the City of God and the gates of the Kingdom,
and our heavenly home.
Whatever you do, Do not be satisfied with anything less.