February 11, 2011 / Mediation, Uncategorized
In 1991, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the disturbing psycho thriller, The …
March 12, 2011
For many Christians, Lent has begun. Lent is that season maybe best known for awesome fish fries on Friday nights. Of course it is much bigger than that. The season of Lent is a time of heightened discipline, often taking the form of works of mercy, prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Fasting in Lent can take many forms. It is not uncommon to hear people talk about what they are giving up for Lent. Chocolate. Beer. Facebook. Whatever. For some the mere notion of self-deprivation and denial is the essence of the Lenten fast. For others that notion of fasting is ludicrous, as shown by the tweet that was repeatedly retweeted on and around Ash Wednseday:
@EugeneCho “Umm, I didn’t ask you to give up coffee. I asked you to give up your life” ~God
In some ways @EugeneCho is right. Giving up something, merely for the sake of giving it up, or in an effort to lose weight, or a self-improvement project, is not in the spirit of Lent. In typical services on Ash Wednesday, after the corporate confession and imposition of ashes, there is an invitation into the discipline of Lent and people are reminded in the midst of that invitation that as disciples of Jesus they are called to struggle against whatever leads them away from the love of God and the love of their neighbors. If people give up or fast from activities that keep them from loving God and their neighbors as they should, then the fast is appropriately kept. In the end, the Lenten fast is an aid to keep Christians solely focused on God and that they might see how poorly focused their vision typically is.
As Ash Wednesday approached then it was interesting timing that the new show America’s Next Great Restaurant premiered. Naturally, being a reality game show, everyday people were brought together to compete. Here they are competing to be the one chosen by giants of the restaurant world serving in the pantheon of judges. And just like every other reality show, the contestants are expected to be passionately devoted to the goal. In Survivor, the contestants repeatedly talk about alliances and backstabbing as part of the game. In America’s Next Great Restaurant, one judge, as the panel looked to narrow down the competitors from a field of twenty-two to a field of ten, said that he was looking for the person willing to throw themselves under a bus for their restaurant.
Restaurant work is indeed demanding, but demanding one’s very life? Hardly. And now this level of devotion is being asked to simply compete. With the vast amount of restaurants existing today, it appears that gluttony exists on several levels. Contestants desire to make people pre-occupy themselves even more with food and then pre-occupying themselves with their own desires to attain the goal of winning the reality game show.
This of course is not to say that Christians cannot be restaurant owners or such. They surely can. The problem lies in the narrowly focused and demanding competition. Scarcity is the prevailing model. Scarcity is the underlying motive for people to achieve. Lost in the midst of all of this is the notion of vocation as well as devotion.
In the midst of the enforced devotion to the game, the devotion to God and the love of neighbor is forgotten. The love of God and the love of neighbor. The two foci for Lenten disciplines. To quote Joel 2:15, “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.” Some things are best given up.