Monday, January 4, 2016

Gaining Christ

Fallen idols: letting go what is most false in us and our world
There was a Birth, certainly, we had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, but had thought they were different; this Birth was hard and bitter agony for us, like death, our death. We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, but no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, with an alien people clutching their gods.  from T.S. Eliot, Journey of the Magi 

I have lost everything for him, but what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ-- Philippians 3: 8 CEB
The Coptic Church gives us a remarkable account of the Holy Family's escape into Egypt, which is referenced in Matthew 2: 13-15. It's the falling of cultural idols.

"A prophecy in Isaiah says that idols of Egypt will totter (or shake) at His presence. This happened in many places that the Holy Family visited. Whenever they came near the Ancient Egyptian holy places with their idols, many idols would fall over and crash. 

One of these places was in the region of Hermopolis, near the modern village of Ashmunein. The Holy Family could not find any place to rest so they went into this temple. There were 365 idols in this temple. The people would worship each day of the year. When the Holy Family entered the temple, all the idols fell on their faces and broke into pieces.

The governor of the city heard the news, and many people expected that he would punish the Holy Family. Instead when he saw the idols fallen, he actually worshiped our Lord and said, “Unless this were the God of our gods, our gods would not have fallen on their faces before Him.” Therefore, all the people believed. You can still see the ruins of the temples of Hermopolis outside village of Ashmunein."
Having 365 idols seems like a lot, but in reality, it shows how inventive we can be in attempting to fill our demands. So if one thing doesn't work, on to whatever gets our attention as quick as possible. However, you can never have enough of what is not working. 

Continuous news networks often promise to follow a particular "trending" story, and "breaking news" news throughout the day. Overnight, the "story" that was penultimate the previous day is just about forgotten. Our brains are not made for multitasking, but operate by refocusing- or starting over- with each different task. The cultural idol of multitasking prevents us from focusing on any one thing, be it another person or God, who is One.
The invitation to journey with Three Kings to Bethlehem or with the Holy Family to Egypt is also a chance to let go of what is most false within us and in our world. We can resign of being CEO of the universe. We don't have to have an opinion on everything or everyone- nor tell everyone.  
Because the battle is spiritual and has to do with the crumbling of the idols within- our own judgmental attitudes and self-righteousness, we can also choose to forego the voices that tell us we are not free to choose our spiritual path of loving action and life-giving joy. 

When the cultural belief of peace and salvation through more anger and violence -embodied in all the Herod-s of the earth- shops for an agreeable place to land, we don't have to welcome the false idol of redemptive violence. We can resist hate, neglect and indifference. In the words of Paul, we can let the "sewer trash" values go where they belong- down the toilet. 

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