Bob Dylan sings ‘It doesn’t mater who you are, you have to serve some body

30 Apr

 Bob Dylan sings ‘It doesn’t mater who you are, you have to serve some body’. Lately I have been musing on why people go on so-called reality television – what would so possess you that you would be willing to be berated by Gordon Ramsay, or the judges on ‘Master Chef’ or on any one of the abysmal talent shows that abound? No amount of money, fame or fortune would be sufficient for me to spend anytime on these shows or with the so-called stars who personally attack contestants without impunity, all for the sake of entertainment.  Is this desire in its most naked form, the desire to be some body in the eyes of this world, which motivates people to do so? What troubles me more is people who would never dare subject themselves to the brutality masquerading as entertainment watch these shows, waiting for someone to be humiliated and devalued right there in front of them on national, and sometimes international television.  The recent publicity about a middle aged lady who was discovered on the show ‘Britain’s got talent’ highlights this.  In watching the clip, which has been circulated on the Internet, I have taken specific notice of the audience when she walks on stage.  They, like the judges, and I suspect most of those watching on the night, waited with great anticipation for her to fail.  Their faces gave them away.  When she began to sing the shock exhibited by the audience was palpable, for a moment there was this sense of how dare she be so good.  It wasn’t what they expected or wanted. In my musings I wonder if both those who participate and those who watch are seeking the same thing, confirmation of who they are, that they do in fact fit somewhere in this world either by braving all the nastiness the world has to offer to be noticed or, by observing others who do so, they make a statement that says I am ok because I am not like those desperate people.  I am in control of my life and do not need affirmation from others like these people do.  Yet they may not seek it by participating but they participate in it by gathering around the office coffee pot or wherever they socialise with others in post-mortems of the shows they watched the night before, thus gaining the affirmation of belonging they so desperately need. Bob Dylan was right, you have to serve somebody, and John in his letter as read this morning lays out the options we have.  For John it is all tied up with what we love. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, John asserts ‘you have to love some thing, somebody, some idea; and it is what you love which will define who you are’.  For John there are two kinds of love – love of the world and love of the Father. ·      Love of the world is not about loving the created world to the detriment of our spiritual life.  We are to love the created world, for it was this world God sent his son to save.  Often we interpret this passage as saying this world is evil and any contact with it needs to be avoided. But it’s not about the world as such, but our relationship with it. It is what we do with it not what it is intrinsically. It is about placing ourselves at the centre of the world and expecting the world to fulfill what we desire for ourselves: desire of the flesh, desire of the eyes, pride of riches. What we seek comes from within ourselves because we are disconnected from the Fathers love. Worldly love is exclusive. It is about finding and defining identity, individuality, independence; it is knowable, definable, right doctrine and separation. It’s a love of self that sees the world as the means to fulfill me, which entraps.   Love of the world is the love of knowing, love of control. The love of knowing is such that the more we know the more we know we don’t know.  The more we control the less control we have.   This is not about knowledge but about knowing – about the desire to know all things for our own purposes – it is the type of knowing described in Genesis temptation story and the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness, knowing with promised positive outcomes for the individual involved. It is the labeling of experiences, the naming of expectations, the knowing which describes God and his attributes – because knowing and naming gives control and through it we can domesticate God and our world.  Through it we gain certainty and control; it is our theology, our well-articulated beliefs and arguments, it is why we are always seeking to know God’s will for ourselves and to be able to name what we are doing as such.
·      The alternative love for John is the love of the Father Unlike the love the world which is exclusive, love of the father is inclusive by nature, so much so that John notes we are called his children.  This love is free, and freely gives to us without any effort required on our behalf, identity, corporate belonging and inter-dependence; it is unknowable and indefinable in terms of worldly knowing, it is only known through faith.  It is a love, which lets go of the things we become attached to and if we embrace it for ourselves, lets go, releases, negates the desires of an individual identity for the corporate (family-children) identity of the kingdom. We discover it by not discovering it, by not possessing it, by not defining it but by accepting that it is.   It is the love of unknowing, of having the worldly knowing reduced to nothing because God is in himself unknowable, it is living in the knowledge we have no knowledge of God. We give up traditional labels, ideas and philosophies and accept what we thought we knew of God as, in fact, not God at all. It is living in the unknown – where our names, our labels, our theology, our ideas and philosophies are reduced to nothing – it is where we live in faith because that is the only certainty we have. It is the acceptance only love saves.  It cannot be defined nor given a shape within the normal structures of our living.  It is the irrational love of Jesus Christ who died and rose again for our salvation.  It is the irrational love found not out there in the world but within as we give up the worldly way of knowing. (v16). It takes us within to that still point where all we have is faith. Which brings us back to where we started when we questioned the infatuation with reality television. ·      Love is our identity. Our identity is in our adoption, not of our creation, but of Gods action – love –it’s his gift.  While we are still in the world and struggling with our humanity we are in God’s kingdom in the image of the unknowable God.  We are not to look at our failures and flaws but to hope in the foretaste of heaven, which is God’s redemption now. It is whom we are at the very centre of our existence – being human, breathing and being is the foretaste of heaven. Thomas Merton expresses it this way: ‘To say I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self.  Love is my true character. Love is my name. ·      Love is our response in obedience It is interesting John takes this position in the midst of a letter of Living the obedient life – we equate being able to do the right thing with having the knowledge to do so – but John says we don’t know what it looks like, we don’t who we are, It is how we live out our familial responsibilities as the children of God. Love of self and of others. A love that finds the fathers love sufficient to sustain us through the unknowing which is faith.  Faith is knowing without seeing and for this we do not need worldly knowing to confirm who we are, to fulfill our desires for we have but one desire to see Jesus as he really is and to see ourselves in him. We will leave the final word this morning to Thomas Merton: We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life, and that is why we are travelling and in darkness.  But we already possess Him by grace, and therefore in that sense we have arrived and are dwelling in the light. But oh! How far have I to go to find You in Whom I have already arrived!      

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