I recently visited a cultural history museum in Quito in Ecuador. Part of the history covered the pre-colonial times, when local indigenous peoples lived alone in the land. One of the exhibits had a short video overview of some of the archaeological finds and what they reveal about the religious beliefs of the people. It showed that they had gods that were part animal, part human, and part something from the imagination that is not of this reality. I imagine that that’s what you do when you have a god: it’s got to be something that makes you say, Wow. Saying Wow is the basis of worship.
A week ago I was in a neighborhood in Lima and the soccer league that they play on the cement court in the center of town was starting. The walls of the court were freshly painted, the local politician got to say a few words, and a whole lot of the community was out. The game had just begun when I noticed activity on the sidewalk behind me. I turned around and a group of small kids had a soccer ball, and were calling out their positions. They were starting their own game. The players on the court make them say Wow. That means they are gods to them, and that’s what happens when you watch your god.
When I was a kid I watched a lot of sports on TV. My brother and I had a rabbit ears TV in our room, with a broken off knob that meant you had to turn it with a set of pliers. No matter. I watched a lot of the Boston Celtics’ basketball games because every time I watched them, I came away with a Wow. And every time I had a Wow reaction, I stepped out of our room to the top of the stairway and announced the good news to everyone on the floor below. And after the game, in the warmer months, I’d pick up my basketball and head outside to the hoop to play.
Some years later as a young adult I was working in a parking garage behind Fenway Park in Boston. It was near all the nightclubs, so it was open evenings even when there weren’t baseball games. One night I was taking tickets at the entrance when a giant black Mercedes with tinted windows pulled up. When I approached the driver’s door, the window lowered and revealed Robert Parish staring at me. All I could say was his nickname I had heard dozens of times on TV: “Chief!” I didn’t know what to say, but I tell you I was at his service. He got the best spot, and I told him, you know what, you don’t even have to pay. That is what happens when you’re in the presence of someone who you say Wow about. When you meet your god.
Some years ago, I had the Gospels presented to me. When I make time and space to take them up and see what they show me, I come away with a Wow every time. That’s what makes me want to have a life like Jesus’, his relationship with the Father, his wisdom and simplicity and strength and vision, his amazing heart that looks past the surface into the depths, that has such confidence in his Father that he can forgive and love without limits and fulfill a life beyond dreams. And every time I come away with a Wow, I get going on trying to do it myself.
If we make time and space to take up the Gospels and see what they show us, we get to see someone who can make us say Wow every time. Someone who inspires us to be like him in all of life and stirs inside of us the energy and motivation to start trying. So that every time that we meet him face to face, we’ll have the biggest Wow of all.
We’ll be in the presence of our God.
“See; I come with an inscribed scroll written upon me.
I delight to do your will, my God;
your law is in my inner being!” (Ps 40:8-9)