Saturday, June 25, 2011

Worshiping Molech

Proper 8A

Genesis 22:1-14; Romans 6:12-23

Molech was an Ammonite deity who was thought to require child sacrifice. This week's lesson from Genesis (Genesis 22:1-14) about Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain because he has heard God tell him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering reminds us of Molech, first in the nature of the command Abraham hears, and then in the moment when God says, “Do not lay your hand on the boy”, revealing God to be very different from Molech and the other lesser gods.

It’s worth noticing that the same week our Old Testament lesson brings Molech to mind, we had news about the environment that once again told about the perils we and our children face in the fairly near future.

There was the summary report from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) which brought grim news about the deterioration of marine ecosystems. The report predicts that unless a massive effort is made to address the environmental stressors on the ocean, there will be a mass extinction of marine life sometime during this century. This is not good news for us, for our children, or for our children’s children, The same sorts of stressors affect the non-marine environment; these combined with the effects of the tragedy unfolding in our oceans do have and will have a profound effect on the world in which we and our children and grandchildren are living out our lives.

An article in Saturday’s New Zealand Herald, Toxic tide mankind’s next great threat, quotes a recent UN environmental program report known as Yearbook for 2011 describing plastics “lost” in the oceans as “the world’s new toxic time-bomb”. It seems that plastics floating in the ocean accumulate and concentrate chemicals we don’t want entering the food chain, such as PCBs and DDT. And as plastic photo-degrades, it eventually breaks into individual molecules of plastic that, invisible as they are, enter the food chain very easily.

These reports provide further evidence for what we already knew from looking at other forms of pollution and at climate change, its effects, and our failure to address the issue: we have chosen to sacrifice the lives of our children and our children’s children in the names of various gods -- gods of convenience and money and laziness and all sorts of sin -- gods too numerous to mention. These gods are today’s equivalent of Molech, deities that are not the true god but whom we mistakenly believe have so much power that we will sacrifice our children to them.

In this week’s lesson from Romans (Romans 6:12-23), St. Paul tells us “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our understanding is that God offers us the gift of true life, ours for the taking, and that when we turn our back on that gift and instead choose to sin, putting all these lesser gods before our relationship with the Living God, the result of that is always death.

This understanding raises questions that should puzzle and disturb us more than the question of how Abraham could ever have set out in obedience to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Given a God who offers us the good gift of eternal life -- life at its deepest levels -- why do we ever choose anything other than God’s freely given gift? Why is it so hard for us to choose life for ourselves and our children? Why do we give everything in the world precedence over ensuring that we leave our children a planet that can sustain human life? Why do we sacrifice our children and our children’s children to these lesser gods?

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