Crafting Idols

In the season opener, The Office – Season 4, chaos seems to break loose around Dunder-Mifflin.  First Michael, the boss, runs over Meredith with his car.  Then Sprinkles the Cat dies.  A curse is upon the office!

There is a scene when Michael gathers everyone into the conference room and asks them to share about what their religions are – and what they might say about this curse. As they go around sharing, there is some bonding between the Presbyterians and some banter about other faiths and not being identified simply by your religious affiliation… but the Michael pops in and says something about how they just can’t believe in God after a day like today.  And the room goes absolutely silent.  Blank stares are all you see on the other faces.  Perhaps slight nods of assent.  Michael asks – What did people believe in before God?  The Sun?  Some animal?  And then proceeds to create the most fantastical animal god that he can dream up.

I wonder in some ways if that isn’t what the Israelites were thinking as they were huddling in fear at the base of Mt. Sinai.  Above them is thunder and lightning and booming and I’m pretty sure they thought they were about to die.  They had been led out of the land of Egypt to this desert landscape and they were doomed.  So they put their heads together and gathered up all the gold that they could get their hands on and formed it into the most awesome thing they could imagine. They formed a beautiful calf to protect them from this dangeours and fearsome God hovering on the mountain top.

Whenever we want God to fit into our box – to be tame and manageable and on our side, we craft hideous and fantastic idols.  We turn God into a policeman, or a gentle old man.  We turn God into vicious angry beast in whose hands we are helpless, sinful creatures.  And in each of theses ways in which we try to define God, to limit God, to say what God is – we fail.  We miss the point. We never are able to get the entire picture.

When Moses met God on the hillside and asks for a name to give the Israelites.  Although it is debated how exactly the translate Exodus 3:14… both the ideas “I will be who I will be” and “I am who I am” both give us the impression that God is not to be defined by our words, our images, or our thoughts.  God is more than, God IS… and that immensity just doesn’t fit into our little brains.

Suffice it to say – any time that we speak of God, we create an idol of a sense.  The key is to keep aware of the fact that we have limited God by any gender, image, creature or name that we have given… and to keep ourselves open to the possibility that we might be wrong and incomplete and that we might need someone to shake those notions up a little bit for us.

Where we head terribly wrong is when we, like Michael, create a god of our own choosing – be it money or fame, or “some sort of monster, like something with the body of a walrus wit hteh head of a sea lion. Something with the body of an egret, with the head of a meerkat. Or just the head of a monkey, with the antlers of a reindeer. With the body of a… porcupine.”

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