Exodus 32: 1-10a Acts 19: 21-33
Fast Food Church
May the Lord be with you! (And also with you…)
This past week, I think it was Monday, I left Salem Hospital at about my usual time of 10:15 pm, and I can’t tell you how relieved I was to be walking out the door of the hospital at that moment. You see I hadn’t really eaten much of anything before going there and so when I left I was so hungry that I could’ve eaten almost anything that may have found itself in front of me. But, I couldn’t go home and eat just yet cause I had to first go up to Logan and pick up Nadiim where he was working until 11:00. So, I drove up there from Salem, stomach growling at me the entire way. And once I got up there I saw that there were exactly four places that were still open, one of those places was ACME. I could’ve done the responsible thing and go in and get some salad fixings, perhaps some cheese on top of it all, and then take that all home and make myself a nice healthy dinner. And so I did what most people would do, I looked to see what else was still open. There was Wendy’s and McDonald’s and Wawa. Now, I will say that I really do try my best to stay away from fast food, I know that it’s bad for anyone that consumes it, I know that there’s next to no nutritional value in it and I know also that it’s really not food but instead just filler, much like the filler that is put into a stuffed animal that’s usually meant for a child.
The question in front of me was this, do I go into Wawa and get something like a turkey sandwich or something else that they could put together for me out of one of their microwaves, or do I go over to Mickey D’s or Wendy’s where I could get a nice hot juicy hamburger that I know is bad for me, yet tastes so good at the same time? Melting cheese on it for sure, and I could also have some bacon put onto it. I’m not a real bacon eater, but I do like bacon on a burger, there’s something about the mixing of those two tastes that I find particularly appealing.
Well I think we can all assume what it is that I did, I went over to McDonald’s, essentially because I missed the turn for Wendy’s, and I pulled up to the order window and got two #10’s. The #10 is supposed to be a healthier burger, it’s made with a whole wheat bun, and the meat that they use is supposed to be not like those standard meat patties that they use on the Big Mac. I got a medium order even though they asked if I’d like to upgrade my fries and drink to a larger size, and you’ll note that I ordered two #10’s, I felt that I had to get one for Nadiim too just in case I wasn’t finished eating by the time he’d come out from his job, and I was sure he’d be hungry too. I drove to the first window and paid and then to the second window to pick up my bag of filler.
I was so hungry I was just salivating, and so when I pulled into the parking lot outside of where I knew Nadiim would be coming out, I left the engine on so that I could be listening to the radio, and then I dove head first into that McDonald’s bag that was already making my car smell like hot vegetable oil…and I didn’t come up for air until my belly was full, my hunger satisfied, and my conscious guilty. I knew what I’d done, but I told myself that it wasn’t very often that such an occurrence took place and that it would be okay. I woke up the next morning still tasting that burger, and not in a good way. Had it satisfied me? Ultimately no, but it had provided an instant sense of gratification that at that moment had seemed to be the better idea in front of me. I do think it safely obvious to say that food really is best for us and best tasting and more nourishing of course when the time is taken to put care and commitment into its preparation. That when you put even a smidgen of dedication into, that the satisfaction and benefit are just that much greater. Not to mention the lessoned possibility of indigestion to occur.
Now I think I can say that this is probably a pretty common type of experience, and I’d venture to say also that I am not the only person here today who has committed such a heinous act against their diet. And I think I can also say that it’s all because we human beings are just funny little creatures that really are very into instant gratification. Instant gratification, as we may recognize, allows us satisfaction, usually only temporary, but nonetheless satisfaction, and what’s more, most always, this satisfaction comes without any type of commitment. And in the case especially of fast food, it’s usually not terribly expensive. Sure, I’ve heard people say how it’s not cheap either, how it costs forty or fifty bucks for a family of four or five to go out for fast food, ..but if you go to a dinner or any other restaurant, I know that you’re going to spend more for that same number of people. And fast food can also make food fun, especially for kids; go into a fast food joint and the place often times looks like something of a carnival. McDonald’s has fun characters, and gives out toys, and Burger King has a king and will even give you your very own crown to take home. What more could you want than that? Fast Food is instant gratification and it comes to you fast, and generally pretty cheaply – until of course you start having to deal with the health costs that can often times be the results if you eat it more than rarely – but for right now it’s pretty cheap and serves its purpose. And there’s no commitment, you don’t have to be a part of the commitment of making it, there’s no real investment, …and let’s not forget, that there’s no real nourishment, but that seems to be a side bar issue.
And we human beings have essentially always been funny like this, wanting it here and now. Think about the Exodus scene that we read about just now. Moses saves the Israelites from a horrific life of slavery under the cruel Pharaoh, gets them all away from the Pharaoh’s army by splitting the Red Sea through the middle and really just gets them all to a safe place. Then God starts providing them with manna and quall, their water supply never really seems to be too much of a question; that too is being provided to them. And then, Moses goes to the top of Mt. Sinai one day at the request of God himself, so that God can give him his law for all of these people to live by, something that we all need really. (And I will add here the fact of the matter that we really do need such laws because systems of anarchy have never gotten too far for a reason.) And so he goes to the mountain top, apparently doesn’t know just how long he’ll be there, and then after a while his people at the bottom of the mountain start freaking out a little, their leader went up the mountain and hasn’t come back, they’ve got a crisis on their hands, what are they going to do? And so what do they do? Well, they come up with a wonderful idea, they’ll essentially revert back to a way of thinking and doing that’s comfortable and quick, even though they know it will never nourish them. They desire some instant gratification, and so they form an idol that they feel will fill this void and satisfy their need for a quick God fix.
Now we all know what happens next. Charleton Heston comes down off the mountain really mad and breaks the stone tablets that God has given him. And for that quick fix that took the form of a golden calf, they now have to pay a much steeper price than having to tolerate what was apparently so hard for them; which was being patient and being faithful. You see, people have been just like us always. And you may think that there should have been some sort of faithful enlightenment for everyone when Christ began his ministry and proved his words when rising on the third day after being crucified, but it turns out to be not so simple as we think it should.
In the Acts reading, Paul has been successfully spreading the Gospel message throughout the cities of Asia Minor, but then suddenly, a realization occurs for some of just what exactly following Christ could practically mean. If people will be following Christ as Paul teaches, there will be suddenly no need for the idols of Artemis. Until then, these idols had been essential items in every home. Artemis was the goddess of child birth and young girls and was considered to be a true protector of women; clearly essential to the function of any household, as you can realize.
But if people were suddenly not going to need idols of Artemis, which were considered to be actual gods, change would have to take place, something different would have to be put into practice, there would clearly be some inconvenience of life and there would have to be the discomfort of commitment to a new ideal. Since the beginning of faith, there have always been those that insist that such faith should always be practically convenient with a need for commitment when either only necessary or just when fear from some happening has occurred. Considering both of our readings and perhaps in combining what we can learn, what do we see?
Well, we see that humanity from the get go has more often than not always been concerned not only with their own wants, but also their own comforts. And when it comes to faith and relationship and responsibility to God… it more often than not depends on how practically convenient it is, how disruptive it may be and how much in need of commitment it plays out to require.
Today, as it always really has been, people continue to treat their relationship and responsibility to God, and therefore his church, as if it needs to be similar to a fast food restaurant. Feed me, but do it quickly and conveniently, and don’t expect it to cost me too much, because ultimately, my relationship with God and his church really isn’t my biggest priority. Make it fun and enjoyable to me because I need to be entertained, and oh, I don’t want to have to think too hard, and more than anything else, don’t try to make me be committed in a way that’s not convenient for me. And so Lord knows, I’ll ask the big question here, if people today, as they always have been, are of the breed that act toward God as such ultimately, how much nourishment can they really expect to get out of their fast food church experience. The church needs commitment, especially when its inconvenient, the church needs the practicalities of survival just as much as your own personal nest does, God needs all of us to take our relationship with Him seriously, not just when we pray for something or have fear of something.
We as Christians should study God’s Word, discuss our lives with each other and with God through prayer and put into practice the teachings of Jesus Christ, especially when it may be inconvenient. And then, and then if this is done, can you imagine how nourished in the Holy Spirit we’ll be?
I know how busy today our lives are, I know that it often takes two incomes into a house to pay the bills, and I know the stress and pressures that our world can bring. But do as I say and not as I do, and take the time to be nourished properly. Don’t be like those looking for the golden calf so as to get a quick God fix, looking to physical things you can hold onto so as to experience assurance and confidence in this life.
God has put his hand out to us through Jesus Christ and is patiently waiting for us to accept his offer of joy in this life. And what’s so incredible is that it really doesn’t take so much to show that yes, you are serious about being in relationship with God. Remember how the meal from McDonald’s ultimately makes you feel, and think about how much better food tastes when it’s prepared by yourself or by your mother or grandmother who has put some of their caring love into it. Nourishment comes in many ways because there are many areas of our lives that need nourishment, some more than others. Don’t ignore your spiritual health because it’s not so convenient or because it’s not the greatest priority. Nourish your faith and reap the rewards that can make our lives so much different and so much better. I ask everyone to not cheat yourself out of a nourishing relationship with God through Christ. Good health in this world of ours matters, it really matters.
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.