We put our trust in the land and the drought decimated. What the farming world experienced over four years others experienced in the fast forward moments of the fires that stripped people of their properties. Then came COVID-19, the disease that crashed the markets and our love of money. Then it locked us up, exiled us to our homes like creatures forced to hide under rocks for fear of this unseen enemy. With our freedoms lost, health challenged and death confronting us, something as simple as a virus could be seen as potentially ruining us.
The past 12 months have been a full on assault on the idols of our day. What is an idol? Well it is something that takes the place of God, anything we worship instead of God. John Calvin described the human heart as “a perpetual factory of idols.” It was Origen, the great African theologian of the third century, who said, “What each one honours before all else, what before all things he admires and loves, this for him is God.”
So your god could be food, sex, popularity, success, your leisure, money, intellect, work, family and more. The problem with our idols is that they will inevitably show themselves to be impotent in a crisis. Our idols show no grace or mercy, they offer no wisdom or understanding and they leave us alone in the world to manage our insecurities and fears.
I ask myself what good is an idol that wobbles and can fall and requires its worshipper to have to pick it up and put it back in place. What are we doing ignoring the true God who introduces himself in the person of Jesus Christ when something as simple as a virus is crashing all the things we wrongly worship.
No wonder God marvels at our unbelief and our slowness to return to him.
Of course, the humanist, whose idol is our human pride, will optimistically consider themselves as able to find an answer. My guess is that if God allows us to find a cure, rather than restoring our worship of Him, we will worship in self-congratulatory speech how we pulled together to stop the spread of the virus. In discovering the vaccine we will reposition the wobbling idol of self until the next time we wobble and fall. In the meantime death will continue to claim its victims and unforgiven, the victims will meet the God they failed to worship and they will discover that the worship of self proves impotent as well.
In an age of uncertainty and fear there is only one place to find rest and that is in the God and Father of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our idolatry has taken us away from Him, but unlike our idols, Jesus Christ will always draw near with the offer of grace and mercy, the forgiveness of sins and a promise of hope for this life and the next. Churches may be closed this Easter but the benefits of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection will never be closed to those who would turn from their idols to the living God.
Jesus Christ is our invitation back into true worship and the blessings that only God can offer. Understand this and you have the making of a prayer for ourselves and others like that shared by Cameron Wiggins Bellm (Woodhaven Baptist Church) which I hope you will find the faith to pray.
A Prayer for a Pandemic: May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake. May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable. May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent. May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those children who will go hungry with no school meals. May we who have to cancel our trips remember those with no place to go. May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all. May we who settle in for quarantine at home remember those who have no home. As fear grips our country let us choose love. During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbour. Through Jesus Christ our Saviour, whose arms of love embrace us all. Amen.