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Lenten Reflections: Little Idolatries

It's such a mundane decision. Such a paltry "sacrifice." Don't drink alcohol, except on Sundays, for the next seven weeks. What on earth does that have to do with Jesus' death and resurrection? With sin and salvation? With fullness of life and God's glory?

I remember reading the Exodus account of the Golden Calf when I was in college. It's a classic story–Moses has led the Israelites out of Egypt and they are in the wilderness and Moses disappears for a while to receive the Ten Commandments. He returns, only to find that they have constructed an idol in the shape of a cow and started to worship it (see Exodus 32). I remember thinking, what on earth does this story have to do with my life, with Christians here and now? I felt so dismissive of those Israelites. But then it struck me, as I fingered a gold earring and realized how much I cared about material goods, that I was just like the Israelites. "We are idol-making factories," a preacher once said.

Yep. That's me. An idol-making factory.

Lent, at a minimum, has exposed once again how easily I substitute habits of consumption for habits of the heart.

A few days into Lent, Peter mentioned that he wants to divide the year into 40 day increments and come up with a different practice to take up or fast from all year round. We considered the possibilities: pray together for 40 days, give something away every day for 40 days, wake up and read the Bible every day for 40 days, give up caffeine, give up meat, drive the speed limit... I'm not sure I have it in me, but I can only imagine what it would expose about my little idolatries to practice any of these disciplines. Of course, exposing idolatry is only the first step. The second step is to recognize how those idols wound me, how they lead me away from who I am in God's image, who I am as a part of the body of Christ. And the third step is to receive God's grace, God's forgiveness for all my little idolatries, God's call for me to turn instead and worship him.

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