Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No Substitute

I’m studying Jeremiah these days, and read something the other day that I can’t get out of my head, especially since moving to Cusco.

Chapter 10:

1 Hear what the LORD says to you, people of Israel. 2 This is what the LORD says:

 “Do not learn the ways of the nations
   or be terrified by signs in the heavens,
   though the nations are terrified by them.
3 For the practices of the peoples are worthless;
   they cut a tree out of the forest,
   and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
   they fasten it with hammer and nails
   so it will not totter.
5 Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field,
   their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
   because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
   they can do no harm
   nor can they do any good.”
 6 No one is like you, LORD;
   you are great,
   and your name is mighty in power.
7 Who should not fear you,
   King of the nations?
   This is your due.
Among all the wise leaders of the nations
   and in all their kingdoms,
   there is no one like you.
 8 They are all senseless and foolish;
   they are taught by worthless wooden idols.
9 Hammered silver is brought from Tarshish
   and gold from Uphaz.
What the craftsman and goldsmith have made
   is then dressed in blue and purple—
   all made by skilled workers.
10 But the LORD is the true God;
   he is the living God, the eternal King.
When he is angry, the earth trembles;
   the nations cannot endure his wrath.
 11 “Tell them this: ‘These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.’”[a]
 12 But God made the earth by his power;
   he founded the world by his wisdom
   and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.
13 When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar;
   he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth.
He sends lightning with the rain
   and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
 14 Everyone is senseless and without knowledge;
   every goldsmith is shamed by his idols.
The images he makes are a fraud;
   they have no breath in them.
15 They are worthless, the objects of mockery;
   when their judgment comes, they will perish.
16 He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these,
   for he is the Maker of all things,
including Israel, the people of his inheritance—
   the LORD Almighty is his name.

Now idols, in the typical sense, have not every been something I’ve ever needed to think about in my comfortable life in the United States. But since moving to Peru, I have thought about idolatry. I have seen idolatry. And I have seen that the line is very thin, easy to cross, and that there are reasons why religions avoid any images.

In Arequipa, Catholicism is HUGE. For example, this month is the month of “Señor de los Milagros” or “Cristo Morado.” Purple Jesus. And some women will wear a purple dress with a white rope around their waste for the entire month. It’s actually a really common site in Arequipa. And I can’t tell you how many religious processionals I have seen.

But I have learned that there is a huge difference between religiosity and Christianity.

Here in Cusco, there is a different type of idolatry as the ancient Incan religion and gods have blended in with Catholicism.

This is the view from my front door:

And in three places on this house, they have this mini shrine that is supposed to be for protection.

But here’s the thing: these Incan gods, these Saints and shrines, cannot speak. They cannot walk. They can do no harm, nor can they do any good.

But our God is mighty, all-powerful, all-knowing, Creator, Cosmic God of the universe! He’s the one we will fall to our knees worshipping. There is no substitute.

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