Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Year’s Resolution – BURN!

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  Thoreau

Illustration #1 - (I’ve lost my original source for this.  I’m sure my readers trust that I’m not making this up?)  In the late 1990s, I saw a biopic of Elvis Presley’s life.  In one very early scene, Elvis is sitting in church studying the dynamic, flamboyant moves of his Pentecostal preacher.  The church audience was enthralled, engaged, and responsive in the service because the speaker virtually reached out and grabbed their attention.  A little later in the movie we find Elvis performing at one of his very first concerts along with some run-of-the-mill musicians of his day.  The audience sat quietly in rows of chairs nodding along to the beat of the music.  Concert goers chatted with each other; all but checked out of concert.  The movie shows Elvis, mid-performance, reflecting on his charismatic preacher and how he engaged the church audience.  The next thing you know… Elvis bolts over a low railing between the stage and audience.  Volume and energy amp up as he puts that pelvis of his in high rpm.  The crowd goes wild.  The rest is history.

Illustration #2 - Wisconsin’s Door County “Fish Boil” is a food phenomenon that I’d never heard of elsewhere.  You may have never heard of it at all.  Tourist-focused restaurants all over this picturesque region host evening Fish Boils at set times and at a handsome price.  The evening rolls out as follows:  Make reservations for one of two or three “seatings” in the evening – in at 7, out by 8.  You’re invited to gather outside as much an hour earlier to watch… water boil.  [Watch the video I’ve posted below for the full visual effect.]  A large fire is stoked under an large cauldron of boiling saltwater.  Baskets of potatoes, onions, and finally Great Lakes whitefish are lowered into the pot.  At the last moment, the man who’d been tending the fire takes a coffee can full of kerosene and dashes it on the fire.  An ecstatic explosion of fire and boiling water results.  You see, hear, smell, and feel the comestible conflagration.  Tasting the delicious result is the only thing left.  People pay a premium price and spend an extra hour before their meal to watch this curious spectacle.

What do Elvis and Door County Fish Boils have in common?  I’m sure you’re way ahead of me.  This quote says it best: “If a man will set himself on fire, the world will come to watch him burn.”  High school gyms are full of rock-star wannabees who lack the passion to entertain that Elvis had.  It’s the process, the performance that makes a plate of fish and potatoes special.  Dr. Bell-Curve taught us that most people group together in a huge middle herd.  Only the standouts get attention.  Crowds don’t gather to hear a grandma read nursery rhymes.  Ramen noodles in dorm microwave don’t attract any attention.  Likewise, an apathetic Christian doesn’t impact the world anymore than an apathetic atheist.  Let’s check in late here for a word from our Sponsor:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1)
Exceptional words.  Challenging words.  What happens to sacrifices in the Old Testament (the context in which this verse is written)?  They are “holocaust” – burned whole in the altar’s flame.  Paul urges followers of Jesus to become wholly consumed by the mission of their faith.  It’s not a part-time gig, it’s not a job that can be done half-way.  If you’re just smoldering, chances are the world isn’t going to think you’re soon to catch fire.  Let a follower of Jesus fully commit himself/herself to the cause… and the world will attend to the fire that burns within you.

Crowds do not gather to watch a fire smolder.  They want to see a blaze.

Clark H Smith

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