God of all the living, enable us to surrender ourselves to you in silence and in love. Surrendering ourselves to you does not come easily to our human condition. But you intervene in the deepest recesses of our being and your will for us is the radiance of a hope.
Monday Exodus 32:1
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us;
This story told from Israel’s perspective give expression to our experience of faith. We believe in God’s power, but see more often the power of those who act violently, seeking power, with malice and greed. We believe in God’s ability to bring life, but experience death. Like Israel we want to believe in and follow God, but find the distance and the apparent absence troubling.
This story also points us to idolatry. While idolatry in its historic form of worship and prayer to statues is not a temptation, this episode does suggest forms of idolatry that we have not left behind in the long history of humanity. The fact that Israel apparently is confused between who their true liberator is, Moses or YHWH, suggests that idolatry in our experience can be misconceiving God. None of us can have a complete and perfect understanding of God. Admitting that we cannot completely conceive of the mystery that is God is not idolatry. But holding tightly to misconceptions and errors clearly is idolatry. In this story God, even when seemingly absent, is still deeply aware of and involved in the human experience. For example, to believe in God as creator but not redeemer or sustainer, as that which began all things, but now is completely removed from creation is idolatry. To conceive of the love of God without the God of this story, who is clearly demanding is to hold tightly to a misconception.
Another form of idolatry that is suggested in this story is the formation of an object, the golden calf. Idolatry then can also be putting ultimate hope and trust in objects, created things. As much as we may want to deny it, we live in a society that puts much more trust in money than it does the God whose name is printed on that money. Material wealth and economic prosperity demand more of our time and energy than God. We could name other cultural phenomena that demand attention and promise happiness; Sports, Military might being two more examples.
Where do you see idolatry in church and in society? What form of idolatry is most tempting to you?