This is Monday’s blog which is now being written on Thursday because I don’t seem to have any words. The one hundred and forty characters of a tweet are beyond my ability at this point. So, let me be intentional about sinking down deeply into God’s presence in the quiet of the early morning hours. Let me hold in my heart those I know are hurting, who are standing at the thin places of life’s edges, for those who have come before and will come after me.
Even in that prayer, I am self-referenced. As if the me in the middle of that generational prayer was somehow the most important thing. The paradigm shift is to be God-referenced, not self-referenced. Not ‘what do I want more of’ but ‘what does God want more of’ and how can I be in alignment with that?
On Monday, I watched about 10 minutes of the new Master Chef series on Fox. I only turned it on because a tweet rolled through my feed from Joe Bastianich, son of Lidia Bastianich. Lidia is a restaurateur, business woman and cook whose cry of ‘tutti a tavola a mangiare!’ (sorry about the spelling, I don’t speak Italian) resounds through public television. Everyone come to the table and eat! I love to cook, I love to eat and someday want to sit down at Lidia’s table and eat after watching her for years.
So anyway, it turns out that her son, Joe, a powerful New York restaurateur and vineyard owner is a judge on this reality cooking show. I should have known better when I found out Gordon Ramsey was one of the other judges. The show is all very slick and like so many other reality shows that have proliferated in every media venue I can think of. The very first “contestant” has prepared some kind of curry dish and seemed to know what she was talking about in describing its creation. One by one the judges went to her station to taste. By now, the world knows what to expect from Gordon Ramsey. Scratch him and he exudes the profanity for which he is famous (or infamous). But Joe just takes one bite, never speaks to the woman, mutters something under his breath and then strides (struts?) back up to his place at the elevated judges table. And then he is loud in his condemnation of her posturing as a chef. Then I turned it off.
Sometimes when I am really tired and fed up, I put in the DVD of the original Fawlty Towers with John Cleese. Now in that show, John Cleese is hilariously funny because he says and does all the things we wish we could say and do when we, in our self-righteous, self-referenced-ness, feel like we are no more than a glorified Golden Retriever, doggedly fetching and carrying whatever the rest of the world throws at us. In laughing at the ineffective buffoon of Basil Fawlty, I am really laughing at myself and being reminded not to take myself quite so seriously.
What do we gain from Master Chef, Top Chef, American Idol and the host of other ‘entertainment’ where one group of people make themselves vulnerable so another smaller and supposedly knowledgeable people can rip most of them to shreds, tread on their dreams with hob-nailed boots and kick them off the island? Is our culture so defined by violence and domination that watching people get hurt is now entertainment? And that’s not a rhetorical question.
It’s time to say no, to turn it off, to unplug ourselves and our children and our friends from the violence. And it’s time and past time to begin working toward a culture that is not based in fear. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear for fear has to do with punishment. Even our institutions that were set up to protect, to guide, to create havens of safety have become based on fear and scarcity and the overwhelming certainty that we have all been abandoned and left to our own devices. Not just the government, it’s also true of the church.
We are not alone, we have not been left to our own devices, the progress of man is not all there is. I came that you may have life and have that in abundance. The God who created the universe isn’t sitting with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit behind a judges table waiting for you to give it all, sing it all, be all you can be so they can decide whether or not you are going on to Vegas or LA or the heavenly equivalent. God Himself leapt over the table to join us on the stage of our lives, to sing and dance and work and play alongside us and through the miracle of Pentecost and the real-time presence of God the Holy Spirit to live within us and through us so that we too are part of new creation. That means that we don’t have to wait for other people to judge whether or not we are good enough, pretty enough or meet some other criteria.
The moment we turn our steps toward home like the Prodigal Son, God the running Father comes sprinting down the road to meet us, to welcome us home and give us real work to do, work that will last beyond the time and space that seems to limit us today.
It’s not about us.
It’s about God.