Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sneaky Idolatry


This is a picture of the chapel of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in New York City. I couldn't get a good picture that included the side walls, which are non-representative art, absolutely ethereal. It is almost impossible to be present in this small space without feeling carried into God. That is not true of all churches nor of all things religious.
It is so easy for us to let religious things become more important to us than God. I once heard a Presbyterian pastor refer to some of his parishioners' fixation on the Bible as "the idolatry of the book." Church regulations can become the most important thing in our religious lives. For many years the Catholic Church treated Latin as more important than God. It didn't seem to matter that the language was getting in the way of our relationship with God. On a more personal level it is possible for any of us to become so attached to a particular way of praying that it becomes our god rather than our way to grow in our relationship with the only God.
In chapter six of Mark's Gospel Jesus quotes Isaiah 27:13 "This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." It was not just the Pharisees of his time who substituted religious practice for God. It is a failing that can sneak into the life of anyone who is religious.
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