HDTV January 26, 2008

“HDTV”—a pretty familiar acronym to anyone who watches TV or follows progress in the world of electronics. It stands for “High Definition TV,” a way of broadcasting that produces a significantly superior picture for those who have the kinds of TV sets that can receive the HD signal. I personally don’t have one, but was at my sister’s house a few weeks ago shortly after they had purchased and installed one. I spent a few minutes watching a football game with them and found it really mesmerizing. Spectacular detail—it really did seem much more as though we were actually present. In truth, even better than being present since we could pause, replay, take a bathroom or snack break, watch in temperature controlled conditions and never miss a play. So, besides the cost of purchasing and installing one, what’s not to like about it?

Apparently a lot, if you happen to be a performer rather than a viewer. Because it shows EVERY DETAIL, ordinary stage-makeup no longer works to keep actors, newscasters and other on-air personalities looking good. On HD TV, the usual make-up looks awful, almost Frankenstein-like. According to one observer, we can now “gaze not just at a news anchor’s eyes but deep into his or her pores, lip creases and telltale face-lift scars.”

All of this, naturally, will lead to a new industry in HD make-up, a new standard of beauty, and a lot of money for certain entrepreneurs.

It also leads me to start thinking about the Christian season of Lent that begins on February 6 with a day called “Ash Wednesday.” For much of the Christian world, many will enter into a specific time of fasting and self-examination for the forty day period preceding Easter. This is an intentional time of walking with Jesus as he neared the end of his physical life, endured the shameful and awful death, and then surprised everyone by the resurrection.

Done well, observing the discipline of Lent can be the equivalent of putting your face onto a “HD” TV screen. In other words, just like HD TV shows all the little flaws in skin tone that everyone has, a careful engagement in the practice of self-reflection can help us to see our own flaws a little more clearly. In the HD TV world, the appearance of those flaws means a dash to the latest make-up counter. In the grace-filled Christian world, the appearance of those flaws means a deeper gratefulness for the love of God who invites us into the heavenly places of holiness by the transformation of those very flaws into life-giving hope.

I know way, way too many people who don’t go to church because they don’t think they are good enough to be in church. In fact, the opposite is true: those who are sure they are really good really don’t need to bother with church. Church is for those who are seeking to become more aware of their flaws so they can be wrapped in the honest, forgiveness-filled and reconciling love of God. It is our flaws that open our vulnerability to this movement of all-encompassing love. While the HD TV viewer may recoil in horror when the flaws of his or her favorite TV personality are exposed, God instead says, “Glad you figured it out—now let’s see how we can use those very flaws to they become strengths and means of grace to others.”

One of the hardest concepts for many of us to understand is this simple one: “God is not angry.” God is not angry. God is NOT angry. God is overflowing with love and the hope of reconciliation with humanity. Yes, God is a God of justice, and so there must be wrath toward those who perpetuate injustice against others. But the seeking of justice is overlaid with transforming love that says, “Come, enter in and know that I am good.” “Come with all your flaws and imperfections and hidden areas and angers and hatreds and intolerances and let’s see how we can turn those into joy and hope and reconciliation and a world filled with justice where the Kingdom of Heaven looks like a beloved community.”

If you’ve never tried engaging in the discipline of Lent, I encourage you to consider it this year. Let’s see how NOT to be afraid of HDTV together! Anyone is welcome—church member or not. We’ll guide you through the liturgy, and offer a safe space for your own HDTV experience!

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