I was thinking today about idols. Yesterday, I witnessed tens of thousands of painted people jump up and down, sway, scream, sing, lock arms, swear, protest, perform sensual dance, and imbibe. The object of their worship seemed to be an inflated, spherically shaped bladder that several large lads in shiny headgear were fighting over. There were others running about the grounds in stripes playing a shrill one-note instrument from time to time. It seemed to frighten the large warriors. They stopped in their tracks. I figured the whistlers to be of the priestly class. Such were my thoughts as I watched football.
If an alien were to visit our culture and observe our public gatherings – from rock concerts to sporting events – it might appear to them that they were observing a religious service. If they peeked in on our television shows they might even land on one that is entitled: American Idol. It seems that idolatry is not the sole province of backward tribes in exotic places. We first world folks have mastered the craft as well.
Am I exaggerating? I don’t believe so. When we look at the definition of idol we come to this:
1 a representation or symbol of a false object of worship
2 a likeness of something, pretender, impostor
3 an object of extreme devotion
4 a false conception, fallacy
Before we take leave of the issue of worry, I wish to heap some more abuse upon it. If we were to replace the word “idol” with “worry”, the list of definitions would still work – and quite well. Worry is similar to idolatry in that it captures our attention in ways other vices do not. It is the background noise in our brains that muddles our ability to function well in mind, body and spirit. Everything gets compromised. We are less patient. Less forgiving. Less loving. Less creative. Less fit. Less rested. We might be able to momentarily compartmentalize our “worry idol” during a busy day, but the moment we retire for a good night’s sleep the distraction of busyness vanishes. There sits worry awaiting our veneration. The worship begins. In this liturgy we cannot, for the life of us, nod off as we might in church. No, a worry worship service is like a jolt of caffeine.
So, we circle back to Jesus downloading a promise to a group of disciples who were…worried. They’ve staked their futures and their fortunes on a man who is about to bug out. It seems too soon – a mere thirty-six months. None of them are ready to take over the ministry business. Jesus has handled every contingency – from demons, to disease, to death, to disasters of nature. He has parried with the religious controllers and left them speechless and spitting mad. Not having him around is a worthy worry. To all of this, he offers them the promise of peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” ~John 14:27 He’s giving them a choice – be troubled and afraid, or, be at peace. The choice is ours as well.