One of my favorite things about online surveys is that there is almost always the same question, at the bottom or at the end of every survey that asks a question that has far more profound implications that the shallow public opinion firms think.
Some people feel that they are constantly bombarded with information. How do you see the amount of information that you receive from all outlets?
Are you a) feeling bombarded by information, b) feeling like you get just enough information or c) do you feel as though you are stared for information.
I am pretty certain that nobody in the past ten years has pressed button c on purpose.
Maybe it’s just me, but with the explosion of cable news programming and the internet, there is always a ton of information out there and it is always coming at us at a very rapid rate, in fact that’s one of the selling points of every new computer I am tempted to buy: how fast it is, as if we weren’t getting enough information as it is.
But someone is always whispering in my ear and after a while, it seems like the droning on of some annoying insect and then it becomes a part of the background and then it becomes something we don’t even think about because it seems like it has always been there. IT is the wallpaper of our lives, like the little streamer on the bottom of the news channels these days or on major sporting events that shows news of other stuff happening at the same time as whatever you are watching, because why just pay attention when you can be flooded with data?
Caitlyn will never live in a world that is not wirelessly connective, where the answer to a question is more than a few clicks on a tablet, a computer or a cell phone away. Well, I suppose one of the television fantasies could come to pass and all technology will fail, but since that’s pretty unlikely, she will probably never spend hours at a time poring over volumes of an encyclopedia, just browsing, or actually searching for information.
Information is delivered to your screen at a moment’s notice.
And most of it is garbage.
I don’t mean that it‘s completely without value in the context of making decisions. If the heaviest decision you have to make is what kind of antiperspirant to buy then this is truly the era for you because there is a commercial on every fifteen minutes or so telling you how bad you stink and what you can buy from them to make it all better.
And they even waste our time showing us people in gyms sweating and then decrying the scourge of body odor. You can’t even sweat freely and without shame in a gym?
But it isn’t the media frenzy, or the twenty-four hour news cycle, or the ads flashing from the top of your Google or Bing page that most threatens to draw you away from the Gospel message. It’s the things that we don’t even think of as being things, the attitudes we are so comfortable with that we don’t even feel them.
We can even start with that last sentence. Comfortable. I don’t suppose that human backsides have gotten less padded and plushy but there is someone somewhere who has decided that what people need to be is comfortable. Cars are comfortable, couches and chairs are comfortable, our lifestyles are comfortable, there are fewer and fewer rough edges in our lives, we have been made comfortable.
And there we doze. Things are nice so why work any harder, study any harder, rock the boat in any way? Comfort is so much a part of who we are these days that those things that might shake our comfort, that might make us question things or re-evaluate our lives are not so much fought against, that would be too much work, but they are simply ignored; it’s too nice here, why go out?
The same can be said for comfort’s younger brother, convenience. Do you know why more than 250 billion McDonald’s hamburgers have been sold? Because it is easier than cooking. It’s not better, not even McDonald’s thinks it’s better, it’s just more convenient. Microwaves have all but eliminated routine stove-top cooking in many households. Nobody thinks a Hungry Man dinner is as nutritious as a meal cooked from scratch, but it is WAY more convenient.
And higher in all kinds of things that our parents and grandparents wouldn’t even recognize as food, but, hey, it’s on the way home, conveniently located on many corners near you.
Those things are voices too, just far more subtle. They whisper to us to take the easy route, to avoid upset and trauma just as forcefully as the voices decrying the nationwide plague of body odor.
We are a people who can learn things and we do it so very well. We learn the rules of the world and then we try and abide by them where they are convenient and try and break them a little where they are not. The rules of the world are not necessarily written down anywhere clearly, but they are constantly being reinforced, constantly being shown to us in the news and in the media and on the playgrounds and on the streets.
The voice of the world we know is all around us, so much so that we don’t even perceive it, it is the drone of the way things are, common knowledge.
We are lucky, I suppose then, that Job’s words were written down; perhaps not with an iron pen and with lead but they have been passed down to us from a long time ago and they speak of another way to live, another voice to hear.
Does everyone know the story? I assume things that may not be true so I’ll do a little précis right here.
Bad times befell our friend Job. Death and loss and destruction of his entire way of life left him sitting on a dung heap, waiting to die. Some friends come along and for a while they are fine, helpful, and supportive.
Then they open their mouths. It all goes downhill from there.
They tell Job the wisdom of the world, what everybody knows. This is how the world works, they say, you did something bad and God is punishing you. That is how the world works, everybody knows that.
Except Job, of course. Job never let himself get too comfortable, never let life get too convenient, even though he was wealthy and powerful, influential in his country. He lived by a different wisdom altogether and so when his earthly world came tumbling down, his life did not end because his life was more than comfort and convenience. He may not have had the patience that people give him credit for, but he had the perseverance that comes from conviction, from knowledge of the truth, from faith.
Even on earth, his thoughts were turned to higher things and so he live this life in the light of his faith and so was able to come through the trials and tribulations the same man he was when they began.
The wisdom of this world could not match his faith. Where his faith challenged the wisdom of this world, he cast the voice of the world aside and hearkened to the voice of God.
It is an uphill climb. You have to be willing to be challenged, to let your entire world be rocked, to let your thoughts be knocked loose from the constant drone of the world outside, rest easy, stay inside, turn on Desperate Housewives or Sleepy Hollow, doze a bit, the world will take care of itself.
The Sadducees are so fixated on mine and yours, on possession of stuff, and wives were stuff back in the day; they were so much a part of how the world works that they tried to trap Jesus into a theological debate by posing him a question of possession.
Who does the woman belong to?
Jesus knocks them out of their thinking, just as he comes to do to you and me every day. He scolds them for their faithlessness, their adherence to the rules of the day instead of focusing on the rules of eternity, the everlasting will of God for us all.
The woman does not belong to anybody. She and the brothers and all the Sadducees and all their rival Pharisees everybody else everywhere else belong, lock stock and barrel to God.
It is an uphill climb. Giving up the whole of your knowledge of the world, to stop up your ears and listen to a different voice is about has tough a slog as I can imagine. After all, you still have to live your life. You still have to make mortgage payments and perform routine maintenance and rake the leaves and mow the grass.
Look again to Job.
He was not a sinless man. He was not a holy man. He was not a man who knew nothing of the riches of the world. He took care of business and his business grew and he prospered and yet he never began to believe more in the riches than in God, never substituted his own labors for the grace and love of God as the primary source of all that he had.
It is an uphill climb though. Letting go of the calling of possession, of striving after worldly success, of listening to the voice of Christ, calling to us and breaking into our comfort and convenience with the uncomfortable call and the inconvenient mission and the incontrovertible fact that God does not play a part in your life. You are living out your role in God’s mission, in God’s life, in God’s will for the world.
God did not come to lend you a hand, to help you through the rough patches, to be your strength in times of weakness. Jesus came to save you from the wisdom of the world, from the calling of the world to possess and to own, to judge according to the law and to condemn and to envy and to hold spite in your heart for those who are not like you or who cannot help you achieve the goals you seek.
That is what the world calls upon us to do. To think of the things that make a life good as the things that are rare, hard to come by, precious and costly. Envy those who have them, hate those who sell them, stack them in great piles and possess them.
Look again to Job. The things that made his life were not the things that he owned or the wealth or the flocks and herds that were his possessions. His life was made by the God who created him, who placed him in fertile soil and who gave him every good thing, not because he lived righteously, sinlessly; but because he turned his thoughts ton higher things, gave thanks for his blessings, and expressed his remorse at his failings.
If we fall into the trap of the world and seek only for our comfort and convenience at the expense of our faith, then our success will avail us nothing. We will have won the world and lost our lives because life is in Christ, abundant and blessed, but it is nowhere else.
We are bombarded by other witnesses, religions rise and fall, and the wisdom of the world drones on. Our confession is that our whole lives arise from the Christ child, grown and crucified because that is where life abides. With that as our star there is no discomfort except service, no inconvenience except mission and both are our callings. Nobody ever said that your faith will pay off, that is not what it is there for, but it is the solid ground from which to launch whatever our dreams, whatever God’s dreams ask of us, and the result will be blessed.