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“That’s Not Entertainment”


Date: Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012

Scripture:  Mark 16:1-8 (NRSV)     

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them,”Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.


I read an article recently in the New York Times magazine about marketing strategies at Target (In fairness, the author Charles Duhigg said that these strategies are used by most retailers, but Target tended to be the best at it.)It has to do with the cards we all carry for Safeway, QFC, and so on that are ostensibly given to us to get a discount but are really given to us to get information. I thought they used this information in a general fashion to track trends in the whole population in order to stack their shelves. But no, they track people personally and will even send coupons according to what they have learned about us. The example Duhigg gives has to do with a woman getting pregnant – when a woman does get pregnant her buying habits change (more lotion, no more feminine hygiene products, inexplicable increase in the purchase of pickles and ice cream.)  So if they know a person is pregnant they send coupons for baby items  –  cribs and car seats. Studies show that if a person starts shopping at a particular store they are likely to keep shopping there so getting the jump on expecting parents is crucial.

 He tells a story of a man going to a Target store very angry that Target had sent his daughter coupons for baby clothes. “Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant? She’s in High School for goodness sake!” Only to go back home and discover that indeed, his daughter was pregnant.                                                                                                    

Gee, shouldn’t the Church get in on this? I don’t think cards would work – we don’t even have a place to swipe them. But I did read an article in the UM Reporter about a pastor in Columbia, MO who allows people to use Twitter in worship! Maybe that would be a way to collect information a running record of what people like and don’t like. Then we could mold the service to everyone’s liking. We could even make it personal. We could send out cards and emails:

“This hymn is just for you, Edna”.

Who knows, maybe we can even find out when someone is pregnant and we could send materials on baptism!

 We have become Entertainment junkies consider how much time we spend engaged in something that is somehow entertaining us TV, Games, YouTube, movies, Facebook,     The Internet is an entertainment jungle. We are ever being lured to the next link. Our lives are full of apps and if there isn’t an app for that, why bother with it? Anything that wants to catch and then keep our attention must be entertaining

 Consider the news – editors choose what to include in the news not based on how critical it is but based upon whether we will find it appealing. That is, whether it entertains us. Why broadcast a story on famine in Africa when Lindsey Lohan just got another DUI?

Even worship must entertain – or that’s what we are told during our preaching class in seminary our professor took us on a field trip to amateur night at The Comedy Store in downtown LA. Of course we have to be engaging but when do we cross the line from engaging to entertaining? John Wesley preached sometimes for hours and he never told a joke.

Mega churches don’t give people cards to swipe but they do “Target marketing”. They focus on providing the “best worship experience possible”!

Saddleback Church has services called:

  • Worship Center
  • Traditional
  • Over Drive Rock
  • Gospel
  • Family
  • and something called Ohana Island Style Worship!

The danger I see, from my introverted, intellectual perspective is that we associate truth with entertainment; that which is true IS that which entertains. If something doesn’t entertain us, it can’t be true! That which does not entertain doesn’t get attention.

But the Truth isn’t a Blockbuster  –  and I’ve never seen a movie about Jesus that I can say I really liked. The Resurrection was understated! God didn’t do market research on the crowd.  The first symbol of the resurrection is the Empty Tomb and in Mark’s gospel that’s it there ain’t no more! The gospel of Mark actually ends midsentence –

 There was the empty tomb

 And the women ran away in fear

 The other gospel writers have cool stories of the appearances of the Risen Christ, but not Mark. Some of the followers of Mark added a longer ending to the gospel probably because it ended to abruptly or maybe because it wasn’t very entertaining. In the added account there will be signs that will accompany those who believe; they will heal, exorcise demons, drink poison and not be hurt and handle snakes and not be bit! Gee! That would make our worship entertaining – bring in a few rattlers, pass them around; or is that something only clergy would get to do?

 The Resurrection is not supposed to be entertaining. It is not molded to meet us at the point where we choose what we like and don’t like. I told the confirmands when we were talking about Jesus and being saved through Jesus Christ the gospel speaks to the core of our souls to our most vulnerable and insecure places to our weakness and our fear not to our preferences and inclinations.

I know I have said this, and I know I will say it again,I think the phrase “Jesus died for our sins” is over used to the point where it is abused.      Yes, in Jesus Christ we experience forgiveness for our sins we are reconnecting to God through that forgiveness but sin isn’t the only way we become separated from God.“Jesus died” for our brokenness, isolation, apathy and loss of hope,for our grief, our fear of nothingness, our depression and our failure.

There are many ways to feel anxious. Being afraid that God will judge or condemn us is one. The gospel isn’t a good idea to believe in so we can go to heaven.It is the action of God in Jesus Christ to save us from anything and everything that separates us from God

…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers,nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.    Romans 8:38-39 

Neither depression, nor death, nor brokenness, nor nothingness, nor meaninglessness, nor hopelessness, nor loneliness, nor failure, Nor guilt or remorse, neither trauma or addiction, nor anything else in all creation!

The Resurrection is the gift of new life in the midst of all that makes us fearful and anxious and insecure about our lives!

I think Mark was very purposeful when he ended this gospel with them running away in fear because that is exactly where Jesus is ready to meet us. But in order for Jesus to meet us we have to let go of wanting to be entertained, amused, distracted, occupied, let go of what we think we like and be willing to go to our most vulnerable places, the depth of our soul

Roman Catholic author, Flannery O’Conner once said of communion, “Well if it isn’t the real thing then you can have it!” If the Resurrection doesn’t touch the deepest parts of ourselves our greatest vulnerability then you can have it!                                                                                                                                       

Well, I heard on NPR that the Pope has an official scent. The Vatican contracted with perfumers for a particular scent to be the official smell of the Vatican. I would have thought the scent would resemble incense that would seem most appropriate but according to the story it has suggestions of lime and pine since the Pope likes the out of doors.

One can’t help but wonder what other denominations would choose as their “official scent?”

  • Lutherans would have a more musky scent, I think.
  • Anglicans and Episcopalians would be Old Spice.
  • Pentecostals, Fresh Scent
  • and we Methodists, the alluring smell of potluck!

An official scent?  REALLY? (It smells like “teen spirit”) But that’s all just entertainment -JUSTentertainment – entertainment hides the truth more than it reveals it!                  

Lent and Holy Week are meant to open us to our own vulnerability; to our fear, our weakness and our insecurity, our innate discomfort with death and meaninglessness because that is where God is reborn in us! That is the place God reaches us in Jesus Christ! If all it does is make for a great movie, you can have it!  Thanks be to God it is much more than entertaining! It is the power of God for healing, salvation and transformation and so when we come forward to receive communion today, let us let go of all that preoccupies us and entertains all that we think we like, open our selves – the depth of our souls to the power of God in Christ Jesus that gives New Life. 



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