We can make reminders for ourselves of how easily we can exchange the glory of the immortal God for images. (Rom 1:23)
You will need:
- Terracotta coloured air-drying clay
- small rolling pins or glass bottles
- small cutters of various shapes or blunt knives
- baking paper
Affiliate links: The flags will take you to supplies from Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com. Anything you buy in that session will help to support this ministry and keep it free. So feel free to order that trip to the International Space Station you promised yourself.
Start by rolling a small ball of clay on the paper until it is about 3mm or 1/8” thick. Use the cutters or cut your own shapes to represent God. You may make one large shape or three small shapes. For example, you might choose a face to represent Jesus, a heart for the Father, and a lightening bolt for the Holy Spirit.
Put your shapes at the front of your paper, nearer you, and leave all the scraps in a jumbled up pile at the back. Admire the qualities of God you have represented.
Now turn your paper around, so that the junk pile becomes your treasure. Then scrape up your shapes, squash them and push them into your junk pile. Pull and squeeze this blob around until it looks something like your face. A god made in our own image is no god at all.
Finally, roll the blob flat again, and re-cut the shapes that represent God’s qualities for you. Use a pencil to make a small hole near the top of each. You can use these to hang the shapes when they have dried.
“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”, the Mad Hatter asked. It was supposed to be nonsense, but Lewis Carroll eventually constructed an answer: Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat. ROTFL.
Raven and writing desk were intended to be completely dissimilar. That was the whole point. But with some thought, links can be found in the most unlikely of places.
My daily bible notes are in Judges at the moment. Time-wise, that’s over 600 years earlier than our reading in Jeremiah, and mostly in a different country. What could they have to do with each other? When is a Judges reading like a Jeremiah reading? When they’re both dealing with real people who live in a real world and do real stupid things – not so different from us today.
I’ve use The Message version of today’s reading because I think it captures well the exasperation of God as he points out the utter stupidity of his people. They had the One True Living God, and yet they were less faithful to him than the nations around them were to their idols. Israel jumped onto every passing bandwagon, adopted every passing religious fad, committed themselves to whatever latest celebrity idol was fashionable. At least the surrounding nations were faithful to their lumps of stone and wood and metal.
Not that God was surprised by this. He had seen it so many times before. There are some really heart-breaking passages in Judges that caught my eye from my daily readings.
To give you context, Moses has died, Joshua has led the Israelites across the Jordan and they’re settling in the land of promise.
The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel.
After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.
They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshipped various gods of the peoples around them. Judges 2:6–12 (parts)
Seriously? The greatest deliverance in the history of a nation – somewhere around three million people escaping – and by next generation everybody forgets? It’d be like everyone now saying ‘World War What? Sorry, never heard of it.’ Seriously?
It gets worse.
One of the bleakest verses in the Old Testament I think is at the very end of Judges.
There had been occasional good judges – Deborah, for example. There had been occasional fair-to-middling ones, such a Gideon. He started well by refusing the crown because ‘God will reign over you’, he said. But then he asked for a load of treasure instead and made a fancy gold ornament. It became the must-see thing of the year and everybody started worshipping it. Good move! (not)
The final verse of the book sums up the sorry state. ‘All the people did what was right in their own eyes.’
So back to our text. Notice anything the same? They traded in the God who had rescued them for their own worthless idols and so became worthless themselves. It’s the same. It’s exactly the same.
And what about today? Do we do this today? OK so we don’t worship golden ephods (‘Ephods are sooooo last year, darling.’) but in our modern mass-worship of individuality we can be in danger of re-casting God in the image we desire.
God is the source of the tolerance and acceptance which are so loudly trumpeted by western society at the moment, but let us be clear. We tolerate those who disagree with us. We do not tolerate ’empty god-dreams and silly god-schemes’ as verse 8 puts it. We accept people of different beliefs. We do not accept those beliefs as our own. We love sinners. We do not love sin.
Let us make sure we are not worshipping the freedom itself in place of the one who frees us.
‘It’s OK for you to believe that, if it’s true for you. Personally I have my own beliefs, and they suit me fine.’
How do you respond to people who say this? Where do we need to strive for tolerance and where for truth?
Please forgive us
when we try to re-make you in our image,
when we forget you, the fountain and source of our freedom
and dig instead, dry wells of our own invention
Jeremiah 2:4-13 The Message
Hear God’s Message, House of Jacob!
Yes, you—House of Israel!
God’s Message: “What did your ancestors find fault with in me
that they drifted so far from me,
Took up with Sir Windbag
and turned into windbags themselves?
It never occurred to them to say, ‘Where’s God,
the God who got us out of Egypt,
Who took care of us through thick and thin, those rough-and-tumble
wilderness years of parched deserts and death valleys,
A land that no one who enters comes out of,
a cruel, inhospitable land?’
“I brought you to a garden land
where you could eat lush fruit.
But you barged in and polluted my land,
trashed and defiled my dear land.
The priests never thought to ask, ‘Where’s God?’
The religion experts knew nothing of me.
The rulers defied me.
The prophets preached god Baal
And chased empty god-dreams and silly god-schemes.
“Because of all this, I’m bringing charges against you”
“charging you and your children and your grandchildren.
Look around. Have you ever seen anything quite like this?
Sail to the western islands and look.
Travel to the Kedar wilderness and look.
Look closely. Has this ever happened before,
That a nation has traded in its gods
for gods that aren’t even close to gods?
But my people have traded my Glory
for empty god-dreams and silly god-schemes.
“Stand in shock, heavens, at what you see!
Throw up your hands in disbelief—this can’t be!”
“My people have committed a compound sin:
They’ve walked out on me, the fountain
of fresh flowing waters, and then dug cisterns—
cisterns that leak, cisterns that are no better than sieves.
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson