This week has seen the deaths of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson. All were big stars and many people feel loss because of these icons (idols?) of popular culture. Like every boy my age, Farrah Fawcett epitomized female beauty. Her iconic bathing suit poster was a fixture in many of my friend's rooms (my parents did not allow such things).
Why are we so fixated on celebrities? Why do we invest so much of our selves in them? Why do care so much about such people as Michael, Farrah and Ed? I believe it is because we long to be connected to someone, but we don't want to risk being hurt by them. We cannot really be hurt by a celebrity, but we can be connected to them by tabliods, Entertainment Tonight, TV, and by the the internet. We can feel we know them and we can project on to them all our hopes and fears. Celebrities are as real to us as we want them to be. We know about them but we don't know them. We say we love them, but we can't love them because we don't know them.
I find that in the Church, there are many who see Jesus as a celebrity. We've all seen and heard about what people project onto Jesus. Jesus the Pacifist. Jesus the Socialist. Jesus the Communist. Jesus the Vegetarian. Jesus the fighter for Social Justice. Jesus the (fill in the blank). Perhaps we do this ourselves? We project our desires and needs onto Jesus.
C. S. Lewis called this "Christianity and...." We've seen people claim that Jesus would be a strong supporter of the pro-choice movement. We've seen people claim that Jesus would be a strong proponent of the pro-life movement. What happens is that we assume that our cause is Jesus' cause. We assume that Jesus would find what we deem to be important to be as important as we think it is.
I believe this is the state that most "Christians" are in. We are enamored of the Celebrity Jesus and don't take the time to know the real Jesus. We are satisified with the "Entertainment Tonight" version of Jesus where we know enough about Jesus to know that he thinks like we do, likes what we like and approves of us.
So, what is the solution? The solution is to know Jesus, not just know about Him. The solution is to have a personal relationship with Jesus. So, how do we do that? The tried and tested method to do that has been handed to us over the centuries. The method includes three things:
Piety - a rich prayer life can be for everyone. The Book of Common Payer is a great resource for prayer life. In addition to discursive prayer, try some meditative and contemplative prayer. Be involved in the worship life of a congregation. Knowing Jesus is not just a personal effort - I would say it is not even primarily a personal effort. Knowing Jesus can best be done in community (See my sermon on the Holy Trinity and Community). Be involved in the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confession.
Study - Learning about Jesus through study of the Holy Scriptures and book about Christian living is critical to every Christians life. Study tells us about the Jesus we meet in prayer and worship. Every Christian should be reading Holy Scripture every day. Studying is simply learning what others who know Jesus know about Jesus. Like piety, study should have its personal and corporate aspects. Are you involved in personal study as well as a corporate study? If not, you should be. As Archbishop Rowan Williams said, only the whole Church knows the whole Truth.
Ministry - The place where I meet Jesus most often is in ministry. Ministry helps me to know Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit because it shows me that I am not up to the job given to me. If you really want to know Jesus, go serve him in ministry. When we minister, we are not so much acting as Jesus as we are meeting Jesus. When we teach Sunday School, we are meeting Jesus in the students. When we visit the sick or shut in, we are meeting Jesus there. When we are ministering in prison or at a homeless shelter, we are meeting Jesus there too. To know Jesus, go visit him in ministry.
In the deaths of McMahon, Fawcett, and Jackson, great talent has left the world. But there is a greater power than celebrity. It can and will change your life. Are you ready to know Jesus as a person and not as a celebrity?