Homily for the Morning Office at Mere Anglicanism
Charleston, South Carolina, January 16, 2009
By the Chaplain, The Rev. Dr. Leander S. Harding
Text: Isaiah 42: 10-17. “They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods.”
The Bible records the history of the people of Israel as a contest between the one true and living God and the idols, the false gods, for the love and worship of God’s people. Will they remember Him who is the God their fathers, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who delivered them with a mighty and outstretched hand and who is long-suffering and abounding in love, steadfast in mercy? Will they render him worship and obedience? Or will they be unfaithful to God and go whoring after the idols, in particular the fertility gods of the land? Inevitably they do forget the Lord their God and go after the idols. Then the drama is will they return or will they be destroyed.
Their drama is our drama. The drama of the Old Israel is the drama of the new Israel as well. God is ever calling His people away from their idols and calling them home. If for no other reason than this the church must be simper reformandi, always reforming.
In the light of the teaching of the Bible I define the idols in this way; the idols are gods we make with our own hands to serve our own purposes. It is characteristic of idols that they promise much and deliver little, that they require more and more and return less and less, that they always in the end demand human blood and starting with the blood of children.
We must as faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ seek ways to communicate the good news of the Gospel in a language understood of the people. We must seek to connect in a winsome way with our times and our culture. It is always tempting therefore to succumb to the sin of Aaron and give the people the god they crave, the particular form of the golden calf demanded at the moment, a god who approves what they approve and cherishes what they cherish. Thereby we collude with them in their self-destruction and are at the front of the lemming like line marching to oblivion.
Theology which makes as an explicit principle that god must be re-imagined for each new generation makes of idolatry a positive principle. But having orthodoxy as a theological principle is only protection against the crudest forms of the temptation to idolatry. There are idolatries enough to go around.
Here this morning the prophet speaks God judgment on His people in their idol worship. “They shall be greatly ashamed.” Our idols will be shown to be the vain work of our own hands that lead us and our children to ruin and as always in the Bible because it is the Word of God and thus always a Word of love there is hidden in this word of judgment a word of grace, hope and salvation. “They shall be turned back.”
Let us pray. Lord give us the grace to see how and where we are trading your revelation for an idol of our own making. Lift the scales from our eyes that we might see clearly the destruction of self and the corruption of others that idol making entails. Let us be ashamed. Turn us back that we might be saved. Bring us home at last. Amen.