Friday, January 14, 2005

What Do We Do with the Commandments?

Read Isaiah 42:10-17

Here in the States, in one of the states in the part of the country known as the "Bible Belt," a judge has had the Ten Commandments embroidered on his judicial robe. This follows last year's controversy, in the same state, when the chief justice of the state's supreme court, had a granite monument inscribed with the commandments, placed in the lobby of the state courthouse (it was later removed after the chief justice was relieved of his duties).

I find it intriguing the way we have taken this list of commandments, and turned it into the very 'graven image' which we are warned to avoid. Folks have them on signs in their front yards, out on the lawns of schools and other public buildings, and there are constant battles, with great amounts of money spent by both sides, over whether or not these commandments should be displayed.

Even in 2005, in our sophisticated, modern, and supposedly enlightened humanity, we still cannot resist the urge to create graven images and to elevate them to cult status, if not worship them.

Whether it is the obsession with celebrities like Jen and Brad (please, can we have more breaking news on their break-up!), Beckham, or Michael Jackson; whether it is our worship of books (and now, I am preaching to myself, believe me), especially those books that are manuals of operation for our denominations, we just have to elevate someone, or something, to that exalted position of being arbiter of our doctrines, our culture, our lives.

We even do it with our homes, making sure that we have the finest lawn, the brightest paint job, the most decorations at Christmas; we drool over the newest car, and yearn for that status symbol to be parked in our driveways; we can't resist the urge to rush out and buy brand new clothes and then when someone remarks on it, "Oh, this old thing? It's just been hangin in my closet."

And even those of us who have been made in the image of the Creator try to make ourselves a more appealing creature. We work hard at sculpting our bodies; we go to gurus to help us refine our personalities; we spend great amounts on remodeling our faces. And when we are done: can people see God in us, as they try to look to us for help, for comfort, for hope; can they feel the Spirit moving in and through our narcissism; can they hear the Word on our lips and in our hearts, underneath all the conversation about ourselves?

Prayer: It's a song as old as creation, Crying God, as we seek to become our own deities. We have become blinded to you by our desire for more things to show off to more people, our celebration of people we probably should be praying for, our focus on oursleves, all show us as we truly are. Lead us back to you, that we might join all creation in giving you the glory and worship that is yours. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

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