Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Wired For Worship

Dear Friends,

A few years ago when I was doing a sermon series on the original twelve disciples, I discovered that in 1964, the head of the Apostle Andrew had been a thoughtful gift from Pope Paul VI to a Greek Orthodox church in Patras, Greece. The body of Saint Andrew had been cut up and distributed as relics to other churches who claim Andrew as their patron Saint. Relics are typically a body-part of a Saint and it is believed that their presence consecrates (makes holy) a Catholic or Orthodox church. The faithful are to venerate the relics meaning they bow down before them, kiss them and revere them with ritual actions. Catholic Church teaching is that when you venerate a human relic, “..many benefits are bestowed by God on men.” 

In actual practice, there is little difference between “venerating” and “worshiping” and the veneration of human relics is practiced by Catholics, Orthodox, Buddhists, Shamanism, Hindus, Santeria, and Wiccans. Whether Christian, pagan or atheist, we all have an innate and intrinsic need to worship something or someone.

In the early days of Hollywood, movie stars and singers were described as “goddesses” and “gods” with spell-binding power over their audiences. If you’re of my generation, you might remember hysterical, screaming girls watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show or the Farrah Fawcett poster that hung in nearly every teenage boy’s bedroom. If you’re younger than me and can’t relate to the worship of John, Paul, George and Ringo, then think of the young girls (and their mothers) still screaming at Justin Bieber concerts. The only thing that’s changed from one generation to another are the faces of the celebrities we worship.

We even collect their relics with the same fervor as the early Christians sought the relics of Saints. In 2002, a former barber of Elvis Presley sold a clump of the singer’s hair for $115,000. A lock of Justin Bieber’s hair was a comparative bargain at only $40,668. A piece of bubble gum chewed by Britney Spears sold for a more affordable $160. And a tissue used by actress Scarlett Johansson went for $5,300. Lady Gaga’s autographed toilet seat was auctioned for $460,000 and one of her broken acrylic nails sold for $12,000. Perhaps the best celebrity relic was a kidney stone passed by Star Trek actor William Shatner that sold for $25,000 which was probably a good deal considering the price of celebrity kidney stones these days! 

We are wired for worship. It’s in our DNA. That’s why we have that intrinsic desire to worship something or someone. Yet, only someOne can truly satisfy that desire. Blaise Pascal, a famous French mathematician and philosopher, put it like this: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.” If we try to stuff anything but God into that God-shaped hole in our lives, we'll end up dissatisfied, restless, and  discontented. But when we fill that God-shaped hole with God Himself, we will always find the completeness that we had been seeking all along.

Listen now to the Apostle Paul debating in Athens with the philosophers and polytheists about God: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I'm telling you about. He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since He is Lord of heaven and earth, He doesn't live in man-made temples, His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him – though He is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:22b-24,27 NLT

Paul told them that God does not live in temples, He lives in our hearts. In the 4th century, a bishop named Augustine wrote, “Lord, You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find You.” We have an emptiness inside us that cries out to be filled. “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” sang the Irish band U2. We have an aching loneliness without God. A restless search for something to fill that void. We try to fill that void with New Age or pagan religions, material things, shopping, drugs, alcohol, eating too much or unhealthy eating, parties, pets and other people. And yet we remain empty and find ourselves restlessly seeking. We may even religiously and faithfully attend a church and still find that something seems to be missing in our lives.

God said, “You must not have any other god but Me,” Exodus 20:3 NLT and then our Heavenly Father designed and created us so that only the one true God clicks into that God-shaped void. And when we say “Yes God, fill my heart with You!” and we then truly desire and worship Him alone, our searching for that missing piece is over. Yes, it really is that easy!

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