When I was a child in Sunday school, I couldn’t understand all the fuss over idol-making. I had never met anyone who worshiped a golden calf. Why, even the first two commandments deal with idol-making. So, what’s the problem? After a lifetime in ministry, I get it. We can make an idol out of most anything. Even good things can be given exaggerated importance in our lives. Boniface (672-754) was an early missionary to Germany. The Germans regarded trees as especially sacred in those days. One majestic oak near Hesse, Germany, called the Donar Tree, had special significance for the German people. It served as a shrine to Donar, the red-bearded thunder god who played a prominent role in their mythology. People who came to faith in Christ were reluctant to part with their allegiance to lesser deities like Donar. They feared this deity would punish them if they gave themselves unreservedly to Christ. Boniface was not the shy, retiring kind. He called people together and took an axe to the sacred tree. When the tree came down and Boniface remained upright, the people pledged their exclusive allegiance to Christ. Boniface did not let the tree go to waste. He used the wood to construct a chapel on the site of the fallen tree. Boniface struck at the root of their pagan religion. Jesus was not merely another demi-god. He exerted power over the whole created world. He cuts our idols down to size. How appropriate for Boniface to lead us in prayer today:
Eternal God, the refuge and help of all your children,
we praise you for all you have given us,
for all you have done for us,
for all that you are to us.
In our weakness, you are strength,
in our darkness, you are light,
In our sorrow, you are comfort and peace.
We cannot number your blessings,
we cannot declare your love.
For all your blessings we bless you.
May we live as in your presence,
and love the things that you love,
and serve you in our daily lives,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.