Who, or what, do you identify as your god?
Who is your God, or maybe I should ask, what is your god? Martin Luther said that whatever we pay the most attention to is our god. If a person spends all of their time on sports, then that is their god. If a person spends all their time on drugs or sex, then that is their god. Arnold Toynbee said that the most common religion in the world is the worship of the nation state; in other words, for a great many people, their god is their country.
Worship of anything other than god is idolatry, and false religion. Our God is the God who creates. God created the universe out of love and joy. God created all of the universe out of love and joy. This includes Bald Eagles and mosquitoes. It includes daisies and poison ivy. It also includes humans: all humans. Some people draw distinctions between people based on their race. All humans are created in the image of God. Racism is a belief that being created in God’s image is not enough: which means that God is not enough. Racism is therefore an insult of God. In the Church we call insulting God blasphemy. This is a sin like many others: it can be forgiven, but it can never be excused. Racism is one way in which religion has been perverted in the past. This is just one way, we try to bring the focus back on ourselves, instead of on God.
In the book of Hosea, in the Old Testament, the prophet criticizes the people for treating as if God were Baal. This was a fertility god, and people worshipped him by making sacrifices. The Israelites were treating God like Baal by thinking that if they just did the right sacrifices, or said the right prayers, then they would get what they wanted. Unfortunately, we have the same problem today. Today some people believe that if they say the right prayers, they will get what they want, or if they just believe hard enough, they will get what they want. This is treating God as if he were a divine vending machine. I even remember a person telling me that we should not say “not my will but thine be done.” This is what Jesus used when he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. This person was essentially saying that what Jesus did was wrong. Our God is not a God that comes in to fix our little problems. God fixes our one big problem.
Our God is the god who saves. God saves us from our sin. Rev. Fred Rogers, a Presbyterian Pastor, (other wise known as Mister Rogers) said that the only thing that evil does not understand is forgiveness. Many people think that they need to earn salvation. There is nothing that we can do to earn salvation. This is because everything that we do is broken: everything that we do is sin. We cannot count our sins, because our sin is indivisible. Our main sin is failing to love God perfectly. This started when we were born, and it does not end until we die. We sin once, and it lasts, without interruption, for our entire life. We are therefore all sinners. James says that if we have broken one commandment, we have broken them all. We are therefore all equally sinners. To put it in concrete terms, none of us is better than Hitler or Stalin, and none of us is worse that Mother Theresa or Mister Rogers. This is why God uses grace to save us. As Paul says, we are saved by grace through faith. God uses our trust to save us because we cannot save ourselves. God loves us, even while we are still sinners. This is our God.
(“From the Pulpit” is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)