Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seeking First: Me First vs. Andrews/Aspel

I don’t know if you’ve seen this video before, it doesn’t matter if you have or not I still chuckle at it primarily because it’s funny and also because it’s true. It is tragic that we can go from singing a song like the one linked here to immediately looking at things in a way that suggests that the heart of worship is more about me than it is about Jesus.

It’s not to say thinking about self is wrong – it’s natural, it’s understandable, it’s healthy at times to be aware of the way we’re put together. The natural tendency in one expression or another, however, is where we think Me First. What about me? What about what I want? What about my self-esteem? What about how I feel? How will I come out of this? What’s in it for me?

This is the greatest lie the enemy gave to the first couple back in the garden that they would be like gods and ever since then we’ve done a tremendous job of ascending to the throne of all-importance. We are all there is to know and we’re glad if other people would recognise that as well. We may display it in explicitly selfish ambitious mannerisms or couch it in subtle areas of service done with the hope of recognition and ego feeding. Either way especially with help from a culture and mentality that is implicitly about the deity of humanity Me First has been the predominant culture since time began.

It’s worth sharing the problem with this. The problem is that this approach gets everything horribly wrong. By everything I am of course referring to the concept of nothing being missed in considering what is included. Relationships, health, you name it, it is all ruined by this approach. It’s ruined because we were created as worshipping beings who do not find our fulfilment in self worship, even if that is the default setting of sin expressed through pride and fear.

The irony persists that if we’re really looking to our best interests we’ll need to stop worshipping self and worship the Creator. To get the best for self, requires the death of self. This of course is counter-intuitive, counter-productive in the eyes of many and also counter-cultural. This is not a subtle nudge and wink deal to get back into self-worship, this is a proper full on dying to self to rise again in a new life. That cannot be done by effort of will, but requires outside help from the inside!

Whilst thinking about these issues again I was reminded about one of my favourite programmes growing up This Is Your Life. What I enjoyed about the programme that was in the UK hosted by Eamon Andrews and then Michael Aspel was the format of the host appearing to surprise the special guest and then dedicating the next half-hour to outlining aspects of that guest’s life. No focus on the host, no spotlight on him at all, all focus on the guest.

One of my favourite parts of the programme, though, was at the end when as a special someone was reconnected with the special guest Andrews or Aspel would close the special red book and intone those immortal words following the name of the special guest – ‘This is Your Life’. The theme tune would strike as applause was given and the special guest is prompted by Andrews/Aspel to the front where the special guest takes centre stage and focus of attention as all the other guests who have come to celebrate him/her flock around to continue applauding, in the meantime Andrews/Aspel inauspiciously slips into the background job done and not needing anything in the way of kudos or recognition. It is as if the mere act of highlighting the life of the special guest suffices to give him enough joy. See the end of this clip to see what I mean.

That modus operandi resonated deeply with me for two reasons. One of those two is linked with the following section of scripture

John answered, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:27-30)

Earlier on in this section John’s disciples share their concern that this new upstart baptising all over the shop. John’s response noted here doesn’t quite reflect what the attitude of some of us might be. Let’s look at it this way, you’ve been baptising so regularly you’ve coined a surname after the art. Now someone else appears to muscling in on the territory not only that but he appears to be pulling all the punters. What’s even worse is that you’ve baptised the brother yourself. Now sure he can carry on with the success but where’s your kudos, where’s your royalties, where’s the respect, where’s your time to shine?

Here, however, John appears to be the original Andrews/Aspel. He is not just singing a sweet song and then being selfish (although he’ll have some reservations when he’s banged up). The brother appears to be saying that even his own ‘success’ is heaven-directed. Greater still, John establishes that his role in the larger scheme of things is to rejoice in the presence of the big deal – when you know you’re the warm-up act then you’re in a position to do just that, not seek the main act status. You realise that you’ll be doing well if the audience are prepped and ready for the big deal.

My dad never made a fuss about stuff, he was more than content to do what was asked of him in ensuring the big deal ran smoothly. He lived out the Andrews/Aspel modus operandi never seeking credit but looking to pass anything he got onto the big deal. Never insecure if others got kudos or attention, he just plugged away diligently at his roles and did it with joy. That kind of attitude got its own reward openly in other people noting it especially when he had to move on. He knows however that he does not primarily do it for that, appreciated though it is, his joy is experienced by seeing Jesus alive in others.

So to the second reason why it resonates with me. It resonates because the great challenge in seeking God first is to be aware of my role in the greater scheme of things. We are all called to live in a way that screams, whispers, chuckles, cries and communicates that the big deal is the big deal and This Is His Life. Every success, every failing, every part of our life is not about me at all. From the first step on the journey to our last breathe we point out in whatever way we can we point to the Saviour and Redeemer, Example and Brother, Friend and King – Jesus Christ and take pleasure in whatever opportunity to state – This Is His Life.

For His Name's Sake



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