This week the Church presents to us select excerpts from the Old Testament Book of Genesis- the first book of the Bible.
The Book of Genesis begins with the stories of creation, theological descriptions of the origins of the world and of humanity. It is important to remember that the creation stories of the Book of Genesis are about theology, not geology. Their purpose is to present to us truths about who God is, what God wants and how God acts.
I spoke yesterday that the purpose of the creation story of the Book of Genesis is to “de-throne” the ancient gods, the elemental powers of the cosmos, which ancient people deified and worshipped. The Book of Genesis insists that these so-called gods and goddesses are not the one, true God, but the one, true God is the God of Israel- who creates all things and whose power exceeds even that of greatest elemental powers of his creation.
The distinction between the true God and false gods is the overarching, unifying theme of the entire Bible and the creation stories of the Book of Genesis introduce us this theme.
Yesterday, I also made reference to a catastrophe that will overtake creation and cause a mass devastation. This catastrophe, and the devastation that follows, happens because of the aspiration of creatures, human beings, to make themselves into gods- which means that they acted to de-throne the one, true God and set themselves up as the authority over creation in his place.
Humanity is tempted to the aspiration to be gods be a fallen creature, described in the story as a “cunning serpent”, which is to be understood as a fallen spiritual entity that we call the devil.
It is from the aspiration to claim for themselves the authority of God that brings the devastating power of sin and death into the world, the death here exceeds the terror of physical death, but the death to the soul that is caused by living in a state of alienation from God- setting oneself in opposition to God and his will and purposes for our lives.
The capital sin of the Bible is not, as many seem to think, lust, and the cause of the catastrophe that brings such misery into creation is not, as many seem to think, a sexual transgression, but an act of idolatry. It is a particular idolatry that precipitates the fall of creation, not simply the elevation of an elemental power to divine status and ultimate concern, but of the human will, of human desire- and this will, this desire, is described succinctly and specifically in the creation story of Genesis as the will, the desire to be greater than God.
This willfulness, this idolatry will continue to play itself out in the stories of the Book of Genesis, indeed in the whole Bible- and it continues to play itself out in our own lives as well.
Christ can deliver us from our idolatry, but we must want to be delivered, and must be willing to receive his mercy.
Yesterday, in his Gospel, Christ delivered a woman and a child from bondage to false gods, whose influence over their lives had become demonic. The woman had the strength to resist as seek out the power of Christ, but her poor child languished under the thrall of false gods and false religion. Christ delivered them both. Turning to Christ, the one, true God, brought the woman and her child, the mercy of redemption, liberation from the power of false gods.
The Gospel of Mark told us yesterday and today that Christ is in the territory of the pagans, the region of Tyre and Sidon, and this indicates that the one, true God, Christ the Lord, has ventured forth into a part of the world that has been overrun by false gods. He goes there on a rescue mission.
Today, Christ the Lord liberates a deaf man, the victim, not just of a physical malady, but a manifestation of how the clamor of false gods renders God’s word inaudible and unintelligible. As long as the siren song of idolatry captivates us, we cannot hear God’s word or hear it only in a truncated and distorted manner. What we cannot hear we cannot understand. What we cannot hear and understand we cannot teach.
Christ liberates the deaf man from the thrall of false gods and in doing so enables the man to hear God’s word, understand God’s word, and speak God’s word.
What false gods inhibit our own ability to hear, to understand and to speak God’s word? Is it your desire for wealth? For power? For pleasure? For honors? Maybe not these gods but some other god?
Is it your fear? Your refusal to repent? Is it your need to control and have everything your way? Are these the false gods of your affliction?
Remember, my counsel and warning from yesterday:
Cry out to Christ to liberate you from the power of false gods. We will either rise in the redemptive power of Christ or descend into oblivion with the false gods that afflict us.