Sunday, November 29, 2009

Why I Do This Work

This week I preached on Elijah's contest with the prophets of Baal (I Kings 18). As I was preparing the message the text kept taking me back to the critical idea that God's goal for us is to know God as the One and Only. God is offended by syncretism, the merging of competing ideas. The origin of syncretism goes back to the Cretans, and it is a good word study to do. But, the point is simple. God made it in his list of essential rules for grateful living: Have no other gods but the LORD. Make no idols to false gods. How hard can that be?

Well, it is pretty clear that this was a major problem for the people of Israel. They just kept doing what God explicitly told them not to do. I don't see a lot of idols around today, but I see plenty of evidence of syncretism. Is there any reason to think that God is less offended by such acts today than God was when Elijah was at work?

I had written a line that seemed right when I wrote it. But then, I was worried about saying it on such an upbeat day as Advent I. I got almost through the whole message, but then I left my notes and let the Spirit take over. Here is how I concluded the message:

"If this Jesus, who came to us as an infant and who is coming again, if this Jesus is just one of several options for knowing God, then I quit. This is not what I signed up for. If Jesus is just one of several good options for eternal joy, then I quit. That's not the message of Elijah, nor is it my message. "These are the days of Elijah." That is our theme this Advent. We are the prophets telling forth the message that the LORD, the LORD is God. The One. The Only. The All-Sufficient."

That's the God I am preparing the way for this Advent season, in expectant prayer that God will send the Son again, now and not yet, to invade this world and our hearts.

Elijah's question to the people hit me hard: "How long will you dance between two masters? Either serve the LORD, or serve the gods of this world." If the manger has meaning; if the Cross served any purpose; then the LORD must be hailed as the One who deserves my loyalty.

That is not popular speech in these days of relativism...which is really just a new word for syncretism. I think the choice is clear and real. I choose the God of the Water and the Fire.