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How to build your own god

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sermon for the first Sunday after Epiphany (Mattins)
You may have heard it said, “If God did not exist, then it would be necessary to invent Him.” Just how would we begin to invent a god?


[PAUSE]


Well, what would we want a god for? Isaiah suggests that we build gods in order to protect ourselves from the frightening possibilities of life. Any god that we make, we would bow down and say, “Deliver me; for thou art my god.” We would want a god that is powerful and on our side. We would want a god to make us better when we’re ill, feed us when the food runs out, send rain when the land grows dry, protect us from the enemies at the door, and bring us back to life when we die, or stop us dying altogether. There’s a problem though.


What happens when our worst enemy builds his own god with the same properties? Are they the same god? If they are different, then whose is more powerful?


[PAUSE]


We can look at all the gods ever worshipped, and most of them seem thoroughly disreputable. Look at Zeus seducing every woman he meets. Look at Hera and her jealousy caused by Zeus’ infidelity. Look at Odin who has to sell his eye for knowledge of the future. There’s something human about them. They behave like human beings. They are made in our own image.


This brings us to an important fact: the creator always creates in his own image. When we create a god, that god can only ever be an expression of our own imagination and is limited by that imagination. They are gods that fit our purposes. It is often claimed that the only reason we have gods is to keep human beings living together under some kind of law through the promise of eternal life in Heaven or eternal punishment in Hell. There are many who say that a god is nothing more than a crutch for people to rely on to stop them thinking about the purposelessness of life. The atheists will say that it is childish to believe in gods because it stops us from seeing the real world.


The trouble is that even atheists create their own gods. They make a god out of Science and say that only Science can tell the truth. They make a god out of matter and say that we are nothing but dust and have no purpose. They make a god out of their own reason and refuse to look beyond it. They make a god out of their own atheism and say that atheism is automatically superior to believing in God.


They have not known nor understood: for God hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.


Atheists have created a god out of the universe. They predict its beginning and they predict its end. Ultimately nothing, not even morals, law or love, mean anything because everything will end in the same cold, dark universe of dust.


[PAUSE]


The worship of false gods is called idolatry and the false god is called an idol. Ultimately, an idol will be made in our image embodying our hopes and dreams to the exclusion of the fullness of the humanity of others, no matter how much we love them. An idol cannot be God because it is created and the true God cannot be created. If a god has a beginning, then whatever began that god will be greater. If we create a god, then we will be greater than it. It won’t deliver us from evil. If there is no god, then our deliverance will be just by pure luck.


But God does exist. “All nature cries aloud that he does exist: that there is a supreme intelligence, an immense power, an admirable order, and everything teaches us our own dependence on it.” The fact that the universe has a beginning, that the very laws of physics have a beginning shows that some One without a beginning has created it the way that it is. The fact that we continue to exist from one second to the next without suddenly winking out into nothingness shows that there is some One beyond who keeps us going and also wants to keep us going. The fact that we know that there are actions that are good and bad shows that some One supremely good has declared them to be so and wants us to be good. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”


This is God. He is beyond our understanding, which is why we can’t understand everything. We can’t understand why there is Evil in the world, or why appalling suffering happens and even appears to be necessary. We can’t know His thoughts. We can’t understand how He thinks. He terrifies us by His sheer inscrutability. We cannot control Him. He has no need of our worship. He shows us up to be sinners and shows His wrath against wrong doers.


We can’t ever truly know Him. So He asks us to trust Him. He invites us to get to know Him, to learn about Him as He really is as a thinking, willing, loving being, rather than a colossal lab-rat to be poked and prodded by our reason and made to leap through hoops to prove His worth. The whole Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ shows that He is willing to go to great lengths to bring us to Him. He enters into history to show us that He exists and then seeks to draw us out into His Eternal life. He reveals Himself and yet allows us the choice to know Him.


Those who turn away will never know or see the truth but will trust only in bits of wood which may have hands and yet handle not, have feet and do not walk, have eyes and ears and nose and tongue but have no senses whatsoever.


That is the only god we can create. Let us rather put our trust in God Almighty, Real and True, Father, Son and Holy Ghost who was and is and is to come.

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