A couple of months ago I pursued my penchant for old books by picking up a few interesting looking volumes at the annual big sale at the local library.
After having read some of my other purchases from that occasion, I'm now making my way through a novel set during the times of the early church. The book is entitled "The Silver Chalice", referring to the cup Jesus drank from on that memorable last evening with His disciples.
Some familiar biblical characters appear in the account, such as Joseph of Arimathea, Luke the beloved physician, and the Apostle Paul. The story follows the adventures of a young artist who is commissioned with sculpting a suitable frame within which to encase that sacred relic.
While I find the book enjoyable, there is one aspect of the story that bothers me whenever I encounter it, whether in fiction or in real life. It's the excessive reverence given to any object, even one as legendary as that particular vessel.
In the novel, people go so far as almost to worship the cup. Additionally, the author seems to empower that relic with a somewhat magical quality.
I can understand having strong feelings about certain objects, especially those connected to people we love or admire. One of my treasured possessions is a mantle clock that had belonged to my grandfather. It may not be very valuable monetarily, but it has great worth to me.
So obviously some object so closely connected to Jesus would naturally be treasured by His followers. But that doesn't mean we should go so far as to worship it or to view it as some kind of magic charm.
Do you remember the bronze serpent that God instructed Moses to make (Numbers 21)? It was an object used by God to bring healing to His people. Yet the Bible tells us that many years later the people had turned that image into an idol which they worshiped (II Kings 18:4).
Although God had commanded its creation for a good purpose, He later had to destroy it due to the people's excessive reverence of it.
There are many physical objects that aid us in our faith. Many of them deserve a certain degree of reverence on our part. However, let's be careful not to cross the line into actually worshiping those objects or viewing them more with superstition than with faith.
For example, a cross can be a vivid reminder to us of God's love and a symbol of the price Christ was willing to pay for our salvation. But it's not a magic charm that we ought to try to use to ward off evil or to make our wishes come true.
Likewise, a church building can be a sacred place for worship. But let's be careful not to fall into the trap of exalting the place that has come to mean so much to us instead of the Person whose presence makes it special.
Even something as important as the Bible can be treated more like a book of magic rather than a book of divine revelation. People may try to use it to manipulate God and to help them get what they want rather than to let God use it to transform them and to show them what He wants.
The Bible isn't a volume of incantations for us to recite and believe. It's a book intended to cause us to believe in and become personally acquainted with its Author.
Let's be thankful for God giving us things that are helpful to our faith and worthy of our admiration. But let's not exalt them into objects of the worship that is due only to Him.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by e-mail at RevTElder@aol.com.