Saturday, February 1, 2014


Earlier this week I went out for my daily walk. As I turned the corner by the abbey church and headed down
the hill I saw, some blocks away, an alarming number of red and blue flashing lights. Then I remembered that it was "media day" for the Superbowl. Since the game is being played this year in an open-air stadium 10 miles from here, they had to find an indoor location for "media day," and Newark's Prudential Center was a logical choice. Teams and reporters were transported in chartered buses.

As I got closer to the Prudential Center I could make out not only the buses and dozens of police vehicles and uniformed police officers, but also lots of media vans and trucks with satellite dishes on top. Except for the police, the street was deserted - everyone was inside by now. I did notice an occasional  clean-cut earnest-looking young man or woman bustling along the sidewalk looking as if they were on some secret mission for their boss inside.


As I walked past even more of those media vans with their familiar network logos I felt more and more put off by the whole thing. I started asking myself, "What is it about 'media events' that always makes me so uneasy?"

It wasn't the Superbowl itself: I always enjoy watching it. It wasn't news reporters themselves: They perform a very crucial task for our society in reporting on various events we need to know about. Then I started to narrow things down a bit: It was the suspicion that the spectacle that afternoon was a prime example of the news media as pure entertainment. The folks inside the arena were there to manufacture news stories rather than to observe and report on some actual event. (The game isn't until Sunday, so anything before that isn't news reporting as much as it is entertainment). I kept walking and
soon turned my mind to other things.

But there must be something more to my almost resentful tongue-clucking disapproval of "media day." It occurred to me this morning that maybe I was uneasy because I saw too much of myself in the media hype. When I'm dealing with others or even with God, don't I sometimes try my own "media day" approach: I put a phony face on the actual truth, I stress form over substance so as to gain approval, and fail to admit the real truth of what is going on (the 500-pound gorilla in the living room). Yeah, that seems to hit pretty close to home. "Dear Lord, please attend my media event this afternoon where I'll show you what a good guy I am."


On February 2 each year the church celebrates the feast of the Presentation, commemorating the event recounted in Luke 2:22 ff of Mary and Joseph presenting their forty-day old son in the temple in Jerusalem. In this monumental event the Old testament (represented by the temple and the aged Simeon and Anna) encounters the New Testament in the person of the Messiah, the incarnate Son of God as He enters the temple for the first time. As Origen wrote somewhere, "The water of the Old Testament has now been changed into wine."
My mind's eye wanders back to the scene in the area around the temple that day. There are media vans clogging the narrow streets of Jerusalem, and reporters are standing with microphones in their hands talking at cameras that are taping their reports for the nightly news. There is a bank of microphones set up just outside the temple area. Large advertising banners hang in strategic locations. Mary and Joseph are due to make a public statement in a few minutes, and that will be followed by a photo op....

The day after "media day" one of my favorite students (I may have mentioned him before), I'll call him Robert, had his own major event - he was caught smoking reefer on school grounds. His family life is so incredibly dysfunctional you would accuse me of making it up if I tried to tell you about it; so in order to get through the day he sometimes medicates himself. He's been struggling with the problem for some time. So this "bust" was a golden opportunity for us to intervene by insisting that he go to a rehab facility and deal with his demons. One of our wonderful helpers, God bless him, immediately offered to pay for this expensive treatment (treatment that is simply not usually an option for poor kids). So Robert made the courageous decision to enter a residential treatment program starting immediately. The next morning in the cold and darkness when Robert climbed into an SUV and set out on his frightening journey there were no media vans clogging the streets outside the school, no reporters sticking microphones in his face making a fuss over him. Maybe they were all at the house of the anonymous Good Samaritan who had spontaneously offered to pay for the treatment? Nope, the street outside his house was deserted and silent too. It was definitely not much of a media event.


So, on Super Sunday, February 2, churches around the world will be celebrating the ancient feast that recalls the day that the water of the Old Testament was changed into the wine of the New Testament. Don't look for any media vans outside any churches, though.

And Robert? Maybe he'll be watching the Superbowl (if they allow him) in his rehab facility. No cameras on him either.

So yeah, this morning Superbowl Media Day just seems a little shallow to me.

Please pray for Robert.    

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