The incense is strong. The colors are vivid. My friend Lauren and I take off our shoes and walk barefooted upstairs to the center room in the Hindu temple.
Here we see the idols, decorated deities, with signs explaining who is who.
Some gods resemble humans. One, a monkey; another, an elephant. They await their worshipers to offer gifts of flowers or food or money. A table displays gods representing the sun, moon, and planets.
A young priest approaches us and kindly attempts explanations. Originally from India, he served in Memphis at the Hindu temple for five years. He is on loan here in Alabama for one month. His accent is thick, his English is broken.
We communicate enough to know there is much we can’t understand.
A devout Hindu woman enters. She picks up a song book and sits cross-legged on the floor, facing one of the gods. She raises her voice with great beauty and foreign tongue.
I don’t understand the words. But I understand her intent. She is worshiping.
Lauren and I continue gazing at the intricate carvings and bright colors and jewels used to depict and adorn the gods, in stark contrast to the metal money boxes placed around them.
For a price, you can sponsor a puja, a religious ceremony offering a gift to the god and in turn receive its blessing.
The priest returns to us. He has gifts. He offers us each an apple and an orange. “For you,” he says.
We’re uncertain what to do. We accept his gift and say, “Thank you.”
The Hindu woman has stopped singing. The priest walks near her. He speaks words we don’t understand, but we assume he is giving her a blessing.
He takes something to the statue, then returns to the woman with more words and motions.
There is much about other religions I do not understand.
Admittedly, there is much about my own I do not understand.
But I do understand I am created in the image of my God (Genesis 1:27) (and while I try not to reverse the order, at times I still do).
I understand that my God came down in my form—a human—and lived like me.
He became like me so I could become like him.
He ate, played, slept, walked, prayed. He felt the sting of winter’s wind and the pain of sharp objects and the heaviness of sorrow.
Lauren and I walk downstairs, put on our shoes, and walk out toward the light. Away from the temple. Away from the gods enshrined there.
Our God walks with us. In us. We are his priests (Revelation 1:6). We are his temple (1 Corinthians 6:19).
He is our gift. We receive his blessings.
We worship in thanks. In ways we understand.
And with Spirit, even deeper, for being made in his image.
But you are God’s chosen and special people. You are a group of royal priests and a holy nation. God has brought you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Now you must tell all the wonderful things that he has done.
1 Peter 2:9 (CEV)
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We are each created in his image . . . thoughts? Please share in the comments.
Revised from the archives, originally posted here
- Books I Recommend – February 2016
- On the blog – February 2016