Newsletter: “Don’t Miss Out”

Dear Friends of Second Church,

Two Thanksgivings ago, Liz and I hosted a large group of my family, including pretty much the whole California contingent, for several days of dinners, guitar recitals, political discussions, and an outing to “Frozen” (which had just come out).

As I think I’ve mentioned before, for the occasion, we ordered a special, “artisanal” turkey…designed to taste like turkeys did way back when. I remember liking it…though what looms larger in my memory is the elaborate dry-ice packaging in which it arrived on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Taking it out of the styrofoam was like being in a Harry Potter movie—a turkey coming out of a box, like some sort of magically-conjured delicacy, complete with mysterious, wispy smoke, emerging from the cauldron. Trust me, once you’ve had that experience, the taste of the turkey itself is just sort of an additional feature.

I’m thinking of it today because, as you might imagine, the artisanal turkey people have been contacting me a lot lately. They are extremely concerned that I haven’t yet placed my order for an Easter/Passover lamb—time is running out! Orders are flying in! Even now, the dry ice is being prepared! Don’t miss out!

Sometimes, it seems as if we have a very strange notion of what’s authentic, these days. We hate the very idea that we might be missing out on something deeper, truer, or more real, somehow—and in spiritual terms, that longing is important to listen to. The church has always thought so: St. Augustine has famous prayer in which he writes, “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” Clearly, there is no doubt that our longings, understood at their deepest, point to many of the questions that faith hopes to answer.

But when it comes to the answer to our longing, we seem to end up focusing on the externals all too easily.

Consider: is that longing answered by what’s on the table–an artisanal lamb or a turkey–or by the act of gathering with those we love? Is it about the magic of artful presentation, or the unmatched napkin because an extra guest has been squeezed in? Is the point of preparing old recipes really about showing that we got them just right, or is it about remembering the hands that once prepared them so devotedly?

I’m not so worried over missing out on the authentic taste of artisanal lamb. By contrast, being too harried to enjoy three generations around the table together worries me exceedingly. Forgetting that Easter may be Easter, but kids are still kids, and they love us but still want to go watch t.v. before everyone has finished—I’m thinking about that. And especially: losing touch with the day as the celebration of God’s utterly selfless love for his imperfect, searching, distracted, impatient people? I need to make sure that doesn’t happen.

What is the recipe for an “authentic” Easter?

While it is still a few weeks away, I think that’s something we all need to think about. Time is running out. Don’t miss it!
See you in church,

Max

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