West Franklin Family,
I can’t watch the television series The Chosen. I hope you can. I hope you love it. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you learn much about the life of Jesus from viewing it. From the bit I have seen and the reviews I have read, The Chosen is an extremely well arranged, well produced, and an (mostly) accurate biblical portrayal of Jesus from the Gospels. One of my children watches it. Many of you have shared you are enjoying it. I’m glad. I truly am. I encourage you to continue viewing the series.
But I cannot.
I am very visual. Always have been and probably (hopefully) always will be. After I watch several minutes of an episode of The Chosen, I find that when I pray – I pray to the Jesus playing the character of Jesus in the television series. My mind goes to him. My attention goes to him. My words are expressed to him. I find that I am not talking to the Jesus of the Scriptures, but the Jesus portrayed in The Chosen. I am probably weird in this and need to learn to block it out. But I can’t. The harder I try, the worse it gets. It’s like telling me to stop thinking about a pink elephant. When someone tells me to stop thinking about pink elephant, I automatically think about a pink elephant. It’s the same with the Jesus character in The Chosen. So, in order to protect my mind from “going there” mentally when I pray, I stopped watching. I wish it were different. But as of this writing, I can’t change it.
I bring this up because I am your pastor. I bring this up because I fear, though maybe not with The Chosen, other images might have unintentionally hijacked your mind and heart. There is a reason one of the Ten Commandments God gives us is not to make an idol out of an image. It’s dangerous. It’s risky. It has potential to distract. It might unintentionally lead us away from the God who is. Similarly, there is a reason Jesus told Thomas how blessed those of us are who have never seen, yet believe. There is something about a kind of “blind faith,” if you will. Something about the anticipation. Something about allowing the Word shape our Spirit-driven imagination. If we aren’t careful, we can get attached to images. To icons. To physical sights and sounds and touches that become something we can’t worship without.
Maybe you don’t have an issue with this. Maybe your mind and heart don’t get unintentionally attached. But perhaps some of you have. Remember hymnals? Mercy goodness how we fought to keep hymnals in the pews! How would we ever worship without holding hymn books!?!? Maybe for you it is a certain version of the Bible. Or maybe it is sitting in a pew, as opposed to a chair. Or maybe a stained glass window. Or maybe you can’t worship without wearing proper attire. Or maybe when you talk to Jesus you are talking to a Jesus you saw in a painting or a Sunday School quarterly or a movie or a TV series. Maybe you can’t worship without drums and a fog machine. I don’t know. But let me plead with you to be careful. Be mindful. Pay attention to these things.
Many, if not most, of these things have their place. They are helpful in the majority of instances. The intentions behind them are good. But if we aren’t careful, we will begin to believe we can’t truly worship without the “things.” If you think about it, all we need to be in the presence of God – together – is His Word, His Spirit, one another, and the elements. Everything else is a means to that end. We all have preferences. We all have traditions that have shaped us. But I fear we sometimes allow the means to help us engage with God to become the actual end themselves. And that, West Franklin, is not okay.
I have my own opinions and preferences and bizarre mental issues. I am certain you do too. Whatever they may be, let me urge you to make sure you are worshiping the God who is. The God who is Spirit. The God who reveals Himself in sixty-six books in the Scriptures. The God who created creation to give us a glimpse of His glory. If you so desire, watch The Chosen. Have your personal preferences. Please. But watch and hold them loosely. Use them as a means to the end (worship); not the end themselves.
I cannot wait to worship the true and living God tomorrow morning as we at how He has revealed Himself from Philippians 2:5-11.
Until We See His Face,