Saturday, June 11, 2005

Part of the Crowd

Just been thinking about what I was saying about our obsession with celebrities and how we will stand in line for hours for an autograph, and we’ll even spend our hard-earned money to fly across the ocean in order to stand in that line just to spend a few seconds with that person who seems so larger than life. Nashville is full of these people right now attending Fan Fair, and just down the road in Manchester is a group of about 75,000 people who are attending Bonaroo. Some of these Bonaroo people are the same ones who spend their time traveling all over the country from concert to concert following bands like The Grateful Dead, Phish, and Widespread Panic. The Fan Fair people and the Bonaroo people have their differences, but they are similar, I think, in that they are both searching for some kind of fulfillment of an empty spot in their lives.

I have noticed that this phenomenon was not invented in the 20th century. We know from the bible that at one time Jesus fed a crowd of 5,000 people, and another time a crowd of 4,000 (and some commentaries say that was just the number of men!), so I can only imagine that hundreds of people were following him around most of the time. (I’m getting the mental image of Forrest Gump running down the road with the crowd of people running behind him.) Jesus couldn’t go into a town without being recognized. Everywhere he went, people wanted to get close enough to touch him. He frequently taught from a boat out in the lake, probably so that the crowd wouldn’t mob him.

I have to wonder what these people hoped to gain by following Jesus around. I’m sure that some of them genuinely were interested in his teaching and wanted to know God better. I know that many people came to him to be healed from various diseases and maladies. A lot of people probably had an idea that he was the Messiah and were hoping for him to rescue Israel then and there, and they wanted a piece of the kingdom. Some were probably there for personal gain. I can imagine little entrepreneurial endeavors going on at the Jesus venues. People found out where he would be and hitched up their cart to their donkey and arrived early to set up shop to sell sandwiches and soup to all the other followers.

A lot of people, I’m sure, were just like these people at Fan Fair in Nashville. They just wanted to get close to a celebrity. They wanted to be able to go home and tell all their friends that they got to shake hands with Jesus and feel important. Maybe some of them were like these concert goers (is “groupies” still the right word?) and they felt a sense of community and belonging when they were with a crowd of people with a similar interest. While they were there with the crowd, their sense of emptiness was not as acute, but when they went home and the excitement wore off, the same emptiness returned.

I think this is the problem with a lot of people today. We have a sense of emptiness that needs to be filled. We feel lonely and just want someone to notice us and make us feel special. Yes, cultivating a relationship with God through the love of Jesus can ease that pain, but even people who have developed that relationship and have been in it for a long time are still needy. They go to church and feel a sense of belonging for a couple of hours, but that feeling has long worn off by Monday afternoon. And some cannot find that sense of belonging for even those couple of hours because of the prejudices of those inside the church.

Our churches need to do a better job of welcoming a diversity of thought inside the church doors. When a lost seeker comes inside, the church needs to be welcoming without being dogmatic. And when those who have already found the love of Jesus come searching for a welcoming crowd, we need to celebrate that which we have in common—Christ’s love for us and our love for him. And we need to do a better job of loving those who don’t think exactly as we do. When someone’s ideas don’t line up with our own, instead of dismissing him or her as wrong, we need to open our hearts and learn from that person. To do so does not compromise our own values, and it brings us much closer to the humility that Jesus said we should have.


jettybetty said...

This is really good--I couldn't agree with you more--actually, I have been thinking something along these lines--just a bit more specific perhaps--and may blog on it soon.

Perhaps, if we had a better sense of community in our churches--the experience of Sunday would not wear off by Monday??

We are all sinners, so when someone comes to the Lord, s/he doesn't have to agree with us on everything--we still need to accept and love them where they are at, because God loves us both right were we are.


Jana said...

Amen, sister!

Little Light said...

I like your blog.