Powered by Blogger.
getLinks(); ?>

The heart of worship

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sermon for the twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

We are often accused of worshipping our ikons, holy pictures and statues. We are often accused of worshipping the Blessed Virgin or one of the saints. We are often accused of worshipping the Book of Common Prayer, or the old language, or the old hymns.

Is this true? Are we worshipping these things?

There is a sense in which we are, but this needs careful thought.


Perhaps you remember that the word “worship” comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “worth-ship”, that is, the act of giving something worth. It means that anything we give any personal value to, that thing we worship. There are fifty-pence pieces with Peter Rabbit on them and, to some, these are more valuable than fifty pence. They are of greater worship to collectors. A photograph of our family is of greater worship to us than to someone who does not know our family. Worship is a very personal thing.

So yes, an ikon of the Blessed Virgin Mary is of greater worship to the Catholic than a picture of Rita Ora. The Book of Common Prayer is of greater value to an Anglican than a copy of His Dark Materials. But is this the worship that goes against the Second Commandment?


English is often a very poor language in comparison to Greek. There are three words in Greek that mean worship, duliahyperdulia, and latria. We might translate them as veneration, profound veneration and full worship. Only God is worthy of latria, that is, full worship. The Blessed Virgin is worthy of profound veneration, and the saints and angels worthy of veneration. Essentially, the Church says that we value the Blessed Virgin, the saints and angels, holy objects, and the rest, because we value God most. God is the source of our worship, and so the things He touches, we value more highly than those He does not.

We look at an ikon or a religious statue and our hearts and minds are drawn to whoever is depicted. If it is an ikon or statue of a saint then we allow them to point us to God. God must be the source of our veneration. He must be the reason why we venerate.

The trouble happens when we displace God from being the centre of our worship.


Whatever we worship more than God is an idol. If we value something in itself rather than because it points to God, then we have set up an idol. An idol need not even be a physical thing. God tells Ezekiel to speak out against those who have set up idols in their hearts. We can certainly see that this is true with money. Money doesn’t even have to be a physical thing anymore since many places are going cashless. Do we value money because we worship God? The very existence of money comes from a lack of trust in other human beings. If humanity truly valued God more, there would be no need of it as we see in the early Church forming Acts of the Apostles.

Idols of the heart need tearing down as much as any physical idol. This include ideas, thoughts, opinions and feelings. As soon as we create an idol, we separate ourselves from God. Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. We can and should value human rights, seek to save the planet, feed the hungry and poor, but we do them because we love God first. It’s when we say that God must love these causes because we love these causes that the problem begins. Which comes first? God? Or the cause we feel passionately about?

The Creeds of our Church are ikons of the heart and need to be used as such. We see so many Christians falling away from the Faith because they have made idols in their hearts of things of this world. There are Christians rejecting the Creeds because they value modern thinking rather than what the Church has always believed. Are the Creeds idols of the heart? How can they be? They were written in order to paint a picture of Who God Is. No, they do not give a complete picture of God, but they are not wrong because they have been forged from what God has revealed to us about Himself. Take away any little piece of them, and we have a flawed picture of God. Hold onto that broken Creed, and it becomes an idol because it have been broken by us to fit our own sense of what is worthy.


One day, the Creeds will vanish away because the fulness of God will come and burst them with His truth like a wineskin. But we don’t value the Creeds for themselves: we value them because we love God. When He comes, we won’t need them. Our ikons can fall and burn and break and it must not matter to us because the Source of our worship remains whole and glorious in His Majesty. It is those who cling on to their idols who will be thrown away because they will not let go of something that is perishing.

What ikons do we have in our heart? How do we know that they are not idols?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Most Reading

Blog Archive

Blog Archive

Popular Posts