Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Can the Gospel become an Idol?


Can the Gospel become an idol?

I know, I know. I'm treading heretical waters with this post, but I heard a story yesterday that got me thinking about the idea of worship, gospel, and idolatry.

First, I must say that the Gospel is the single most liberating, reconciling, redemptive and transformative article known to man. It is the story and words of Jesus - His life, death, and resurrection.

Having said that, I'll bring you into the story...

In many mainline/traditional worship settings, the reading of the Gospel is a weekly occurrence. And over time, I suppose that the routine of reading the Gospel becomes almost worshiped, as part of the assumed liturgy.

This particular church was changing things up however. For the next year, they were going to be approaching the Bible through a narrative lectionary - showing how God's narrative from Genesis through Revelation points to Jesus and prepares the way for His kingdom (that the Gospel is present from creation - that is God's narrative).

Last Sunday was focusing on a story from Genesis; the story of Abraham and Sarah - two unlikely and impossible candidates to usher in God's kingdom as a foretaste of God's economy embracing the unlikely and impossible (i.e. Jesus - a baby, non-military or government, born of a virgin).

The connection was impeccable and showcased the methodology of the Gospel even in the earliest parts of the Bible.

Following the service a number of people complained that "I don't like it...I didn't get MY Gospel!"

Depending on how you read that statement, there's a number of problems. First of all, the singular nature of the Gospel. But that's a whole other post. What I took from it was the complete disregard for the worship experience - the leading up to the message, which pointed to the Gospel, and the message itself that was devoid of actual text coming from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, but which was clearly explained to point to the Gospel - that's the whole point of this year's narrative lectionary approach.

These people have made their Gospel reading an idol. This lifetime of routine has created a singular method capable of acceptable worship. And that, in my opinion, is idolatry.

Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god, or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard to created forms other than God, or the worship of a particular method...Man commits idolatry whenever he honours and reveres a creature, practice, or experience, in place of God.

Whenever we fool ourselves into the notion that only a particular liturgy is acceptable worship, we are in essence worshiping that particular style, method, or liturgy. If worship exists only with pipe organs, or rock bands, or the reading of the Gospel, or on Sunday, or any other accouterments of worship, we become slaves to the idols of what points us toward God.

The argument was purely based on a missed method. And when the method equals worship, the method has become an idol.

My prayer is that we would learn to see God in everything: Old Testament, New Testament, pipe organs, rock bands, church, and the world. God's kingdom is being unveiled before our eyes, and if we continue to commodify where God can be, and is present, we will surely miss God and become idolators of even truly great things, like the Gospel.

Peace,
Ross

1 comment:

thesyntheticoilshop said...

"I didn't get my gospel" strikes me as the gospel becoming a sacrament much Ike "holy communion" through which people erroneously believe that they derive life — something Paul warned us against.

The bronze serpent, used as a focus of faith through which the children of Israel were delivered from the fiery serpents, became an idol. Jesus directly compared the atonement that He would accomplish to this bronze serpent in John 3: so we have biblical precedent for the gospel becoming an idol.

While we are justified by His death, we have life, ongoing day-to-day salvation through His life ( Rom 5.10). Unless we are crucifying our own life and walking with Him daily, we only bring judgment on ourselves if we thing that we can have life by getting a weekly dose of a sacremental gospel.

"God's perfect will for your life is to crucify it."