The message at Saint John’s this past Sunday was it’s okay if you are not okay. I think there was a time in recent Church history when people went to church out of obligation to keep up appearances. That time has passed. The Church today is for the sick, the tired, the overwhelmed, the unsure, the scared and lonely.
There are many things I am not okay with – starting with gun violence, and the same old reactions that do nothing more than entrench and divide. I am not okay with the number of children dying from the flu. I am not okay with reports that police officers are being shot on and off duty. I am not okay with how uncivilized we Americans have become to those who hold differing opinions. Yet, I am okay to worship God, believe and acknowledge that God has the whole world in his hands, and still admit that I’m not okay about this stuff.
I am not okay with the pervasive and unending consumerist messages I receive on a daily basis. For Lent, I am taking a long hard look at why I want to buy new things. The inescapable message of our day is this – if I’m not feeling okay, buying something will make me feel okay. That’s a lie, but it’s repeated enough that I sometimes believe it. Or used to believe it, or am trying not to believe it. Nevertheless, I’m not okay with it. While I have been typing, I have received an email from Costco about their latest deals, and from Best Buy about smart phone deals. My phone, a Samsung Note 4 has been acting up. The battery is draining faster, the first couple minutes of a phone call can best be described as sputtering, and loading apps is difficult. My theory is that each time Samsung comes out with a new phone, they send updates to the older models that slow them down. (Incidentally, the S9 is about to be available in stores. When does Lent end again?) Apple was found guilty of this practice last year when suddenly older model iPhones started having battery troubles. What I am not okay about is that the trick worked. I started looking up replacement phones. I compared the Note 8 to the S9 to the Pixel II. Suddenly I’m getting emails about phones.
My dad is the champion of making things work that others would just as soon replace. When he was a teacher, he didn’t give up on students that others deemed a waste of time. I can do house and car repairs because he taught me the value of investigating and fixing instead of replacing. I checked for articles about what to do if your phone is slowing down. There are fixes that helped. My phone is better and an $800 replacement pushed toward the horizon.
Would I have simply replaced if it wasn’t Lent? The price tag is too much so probably not. But, I would have let it haunt me for a while. I would have given it space in my brain and then felt bad about myself because I can’t underwrite a new phone when other bills are coming due.
Jesus doesn’t give up on us, or replace us for better models. When phones break, promotions fall through, layoffs happen, addictions tear us down, when break-ups and divorce occur, God doesn’t abandon us. In fact, when others want replacements, God seems to be even closer. I imagine the devil sends Jesus all sorts of advertisements and temptations about creating something new, but the Gospel message is clear – God works with what he’s got, makes all things new, and restores us to being okay again.