Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Have you seen the video of the food court where suddenly people begin to sing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus with instrumental accompaniment? It transforms the scene from a very earthly mundane portrait of people stuffing down their cokes and burgers, bought from the surrounding fast food stands – a scene as American and secular as you can find – into heavenly worship. The video is so uplifting that already five people have forwarded it to me, and I watch it each time with tear-filled eyes, praising the Lord. It has also gone viral – almost 12 million have already viewed it. Why?
Indeed, it’s surprising to be sitting in a food court, thinking about how much you’ve spent, wondering how much you have left for your next purchase, to find yourself caught by the unexpected. However, surprise isn’t enough to explain our reaction. We’re often surprised – sometimes by very unpleasant changes – and it’s seldom uplifting.
Nor is it merely a matter of hearing the Hallelujah for one more time, however lofty this score might be! There is something more to this experience, something that elicits some of our deepest feelings.
Let me take a stab at it, although it’s not easy to truly identify the logic – the meaning behind our deepest feelings. We were designed with feelings that serve as pointers to the transcendent. However, before you dismiss this idea, let me just point out that our everyday feelings serve us in this way. When we needlessly hurt someone and then feel guilty, our guilt notifies us about a transcendent moral law that has been violated. It serves as a fire alarm to alert us that something is wrong, and a response is required. On the other hand, when we perform a sacrificial act that truly helps someone, once again we experience something that elevates us to a higher plateau and tells us that walking in love is what life should be about.
I think that there are also feelings that bring us even closer to an awareness of the presence of the Divine. Could it be that, in that very ordinary food court, while eating a very ordinary dog with chips, a taste of the Divine was also made available, perhaps even a tangible sense of the glorious return of our Savior Jesus? Could the Father have planted within us emotions that would give substance to Biblical assertions?
I think it was C.S.Lewis who had argued that God had implanted deep emotional responses to certain Biblical narratives like “child as Savior,” or “the return of the one everyone thought had been decisively defeated,” or “the unlikely rescuer,” or “the triumph of the underdog.” Perhaps in accord with the implanted narrative, this prosaic food court was suddenly “heavenized” by an “incarnated” hope that we struggle to experience, but too often fail to allow to trump concerns about bills and the ketchup smeared on our mouths – “The glorious return of our long awaited Messiah!”
We leave wondering how we can make this experience real in the various food courts of our lives. How can we joyously see Jesus in all circumstances? Perhaps it exceeds our ability to be able to generate this awe at will, but we can remember and consider. The Book of Hebrews tells us how:
• “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)