The last week has had me traveling in the Pacific Northwest, a time to celebrate a significant birthday with a dear friend and also spend time with our two wonderful sons who now call Seattle home. The landscape of this area speaks to my heart……vast expanses of water, mountains ringing the horizon,warm days and cool evenings…..all settle well on my Celtic soul. Plus the very experience of travel is enlivening. In a few short days, I stored up sights for the eyes, the smell of water rich with seafood and the sounds of languages and lifestyles more exotic than what usually comes my way.
One early morning while walking the almost vacant streets on Pike Place Market, I heard a statement that has been ringing in my ears and will not let me go. What a gift it was to watch the farmers unload huge bunches of yellow sunflowers and a myriad of brilliant, rainbow-hued dahlias, many the size of dinner plates. These laborers worked side by side with fishmongers and an array of artists setting up their booths for what would be a busy day. The streets were freshly washed, still wet in places, the grime and evidence of yesterday’s happenings gone. A new day ahead for everyone. Tourists would soon arrive and marvel at the beauty, the quirky, the artistry of this well traveled street and all it holds.
Over the palette of this morning activity one young man’s voice rang out as he moved a rolling vegetable cart into place, its colorful and healthy contents ready to dazzle passersby. “We had to go visit one of our other gods. We are not monotheistic.” Holding my cup of coffee purchased from the ‘first’ Starbucks to warm my hands against the chill of the morning, I was stopped in my tracks by his words. These were not, at least to me, trivial words shared over morning preparation. I kept repeating them over and over in my head so as not to forget them until I could get to a place and write them down. Balancing coffee and journal and IPad on a ledge, I jotted down his words on my Starbucks receipt. And then I began to think about what he said.
I wondered at these other gods. What did he mean? Where were these gods? To what Mount Olympus did he travel on a weekday in Seattle? Was he alone….it didn’t sound so….as he had used the plural ‘we’? Who was part of his worshiping community? What did that worship look like? How did he come to worship this god?
As I chewed on his words at the beginning of a new day, his statement soon took me to other places. Perhaps this young man, simply making early morning conversation with a co-worker, was making a truer statement than any of us have the courage to speak. Even those of us who claim fully and boldly to be ‘monotheistic’, those who claim one God with a capital ‘G’ spend much of our time worshiping other gods. I know I do. I worship the god of fear and anxiety, the god of judgment and my own truth. I take my worship to the feet of these holies with great regularity. I offer my presence, my gifts, my service with a devotion that is nearly priestly.
This is to say nothing of the god of ‘stuff’, of possessions, I worship. I don’t know about you but I take my adoration to the mall, the check out line and pay with good money in an effort to buy the very thing that will make me whole, fill me up, bring about perfection, wholeness, that will make me appear more beautiful or acceptable. When the stuff I have worshiped becomes too numerous, I organize it and pack it into boxes and label it in order to make room for another trip to the cathedral of consumerism. It can be a fervent religion, this.
Gods come in all sizes and shapes. We can make our nation a god also, worshiping a sense of nationalism that can often shade our eyes from things we might do well to see in a brighter light. I have been a part of the institution of the church long enough to recognize the many ways those who call it home can also worship its existence instead of the God it is meant to adore.
Those of us who make our way through the scriptures of the Jewish and Christian households can point to many times when the people were warned against creating gods out of gold, gods to a variety of deities. When reading those stories it is often easy to take them lightly, to think they have nothing to do with me, with my life.
But on one particular early morning a young man’s voice and the words he spoke woke me up to the many ways gods are created every day. Monotheistic? I don’t know but I do know that it is always wise to pay attention to what is pulling at the heart, what is longing to make a home in us, and what is worthy of our worship. For this reminder, I am grateful…….