“Some years ago, social critic Neil Postman wrote an engaging book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. Postman’s thesis was, in short, that we Americans are no longer interested in information, truth, or transformation. All we want is to be entertained.”
From Preaching Master Class, William H. Willimon
There is a fascinating story about Jesus healing a paralytic in John 5:1-9. Jesus saw this man lying by a pool and learned that he had suffered as an invalid for thirty-eight years, so Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (verse 6). At first glance, it’s one of the few occasions where Jesus seemed to ask a dumb question; anyone with an affliction spanning nearly four decades would want relief, wouldn’t they?
This passage is a defining passage for many churches today – the question, “Do you want to be healed?” has become another, “Do you want to be transformed?” Naturally, ask most church members this question they will respond, “Yes.” Yet, if that question is followed by, “Then, what are you doing about it?” their eyes go blank. Wishful thinking rarely translates into intentional behaviors or action.
Each of you has heard, as I have, that our nation is literally dying from our “fast food diet.” The popularly of fast food, of course, is not only that it tastes great but that it is cheap and … well, fast. Our bodies – our health – would significantly be better served by intentional preparation of healthy meals at home. With thoughtful shopping and the right recipes, we do not have to sacrifice either taste or inexpensive with such preparation. But it does take time. Preparing thoughtful, healthy meals that tastes great is not fast. And Americans seem unwilling to give-up “fast.” Truth be known, they are not will to give-up “little effort” as well.
The same is true for our growth in Jesus Christ. We want growth, certainly. But we want it “fast food” style and “to go, please.” We see this in worship by comments such as, “I go to church to be entertained” rather than “I go to church to express my gratitude for God’s love.” As Tom Long once observed, when we realize that worship isn’t about us then we sing that hymn that we don’t like very much and speak the liturgy that – at that particular moment – leaves us cold.
This is also true about efforts in spiritual formation. I have heard from some of you, “Pastor, don’t give me homework to do, simply give me a video to watch.” Translation: “I prefer to get there – spiritual growth in Jesus Christ – with little effort on my part.” This is a “fast food” mentality. Friends, we can change and become more like Christ but it will require intentional effort on our part. The question remains, “Do you want to be transformed?”