Idols look like living beings, but, as the Psalms point out, they cannot do anything with the equipment they have. They cannot see and judge, cannot hear and act, cannot smell the soothing aroma of sacrifice, cannot stretch out a hand against Egypt, cannot walk alongside Israel through the wilderness.
And, especially, they cannot speak. The living God talks and talks and talks until He’s written a large book, and He’s just getting started, because then He sends His living Word, who talks and talks.
The living God made us to talk back to Him in liturgical dialog. And He made us to talk and talk back to one another. Friends rebuke friends; parents teach children, and children teach parents more than we realize; pastors exhort and proclaim in the assembly of prophets; husband talk to wives, and women were created to talk back to men in the liturgy of marriage.
Nearly every ancient people outside Israel worshiped images. Israel was tempted to follow their example, and icons have been a recurring problem in the church. What’s the temptation? Here is one answer: We like the way we are, and we don’t want anyone to disturb our complacency. We prefer to talk to someone who won’t talk back.
But God loves us enough to challenge and change us. If we worship speechless idols, we soon enough have nothing to say. God doesn’t want us to fall silent before Him or before one another, and gives His Second Word as His loving and liberating Word that keeps the liturgy going.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Sunday, August 7, 2011 at 5:44 am
Permission is given to use material on this site, provided the source is cited, blog entries are republished in full, and the author is notified in advance.