Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The power of e.

The power of e.

I once went to a high school dance at the Polish American Club in Worcester, MA. I had on a tie I purchased at TJ Maxx and a suit coat that didn’t fit too well. Within the first hour I was there, I got dumped by my girlfriend. She didn’t say she was dumping me, she just started dancing with her ex-boyfriend during all the slow songs and I put the pieces together like my name was Encyclopedia Brown.

I’ve been dumped or turned down for dates a fair number of times in my life. But my least favorite reason to not date someone actually involves God. You might not have heard it if you went to a school that wasn’t Baptist. Here’s how it goes:

Me: (Nervous and a little sweaty) “Hi, do you want to go to Outback Steakhouse? (At our college that was considered a 5 star date night)

Girl: “Thanks, but right now I’m dating God.”

I love that answer. Basically, it makes me feel as if instead of asking you to have a blooming onion appetizer I have in fact asked you to break up with God. The only thing standing between me and a possible date was the Alpha and Omega, the very creator of the universe was blocking me. No wonder I was sweaty.

That answer reminds me of when rap artists thank God in their Grammy acceptance speech. The Wu-Tang Clan just gets up, thanks their record label and then says a big shout out to God. Did you ever wonder what God thinks about that?

Is he down with the Wu? Is Method Man one of his favorite artists? Is ODB up in heaven right now throwing dice? What if God doesn’t want anything to do with that fake flattery? What if it makes him cringe and reach for his bag o’ lightning bolts? And more than that, what if I’m paying the same sort of lip service with my own life?

This question jumped out at me while reading Zechariah a few days ago. In chapter 7, the people are thinking about fasting for the Lord. You know, doing something nice for God, giving him a shout out and really getting religious. But as they got ready to fast, here is what God says in verse 5:

‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?”

Big fan of that. Big fan of God basically saying, “Oh boy, here we go with the incense and the fasting. The hand bells were a nice touch. Look, quit kidding yourself, that was all about you.”

That alone is kind of an interesting story. The people saying “we are going to hook you up God” and God responding, “Nah, I’m good.”

But here is where it gets interesting. Instead of a fast, God suggests a feast. Instead of hunger and penance, God suggests a party. Ridiculous, but here’s what he says in 8:19:

“The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah.”

I am going to resist making a prodigal son reference but there’s something in those two words, “fast” and “feast” that I’ve never noticed before. Although they are polar opposite experiences, there’s only a one letter difference. Without “e” you starve yourself in holy obedience. With “e” you have a party and dance the night away.

The cool thing is that for me, it’s easy to imagine that the “e” stands for “Emmanuel.” That’s a Hebrew word which means “God is with us.” So when Emmanuel is with us, we feast, when he’s not, we fast.

You might have noticed that before, but I didn’t. And now that I did, it makes me wonder, is my life lived with an e or without an e?

Am I pursuing feast or fast?

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