Sunday morning I sit four pews from the front. Halfway through our liturgy at St.Faith's, Rev. Linda Whittle settles in at the podium. She starts with a question. Something along the lines of 'What does the Reign of Christ the King mean for us today?'
I'm fairly new to the Revised Common Lectionary–a collection of agreed upon readings and themes for the church year. The thing about the Lectionary is that it sits still, an anchor regardless of what is happening in the world. This is a special Sunday, known in many circles as Reign of Christ the King.
So we ask this question, today of all days.
Today. Here and now. Today, she asks, in the wake of terror attacks in Paris and Beirut. Today, with further threats hanging in the air like the faint smell of incense. Today, what does it mean that Christ is King?
Today, in the wake of Aziz Ansari's Netflix series, Master of None.
It's Saturday night and my wife and I cannot stop the stream of spoonfed episodes. We're on our third now, laughing as Ansari's character, Dev, navigates a moral quandary. Dev has a free ticket to a secret Father John Misty show. A coveted concert ticket that he can use to attract a woman. For Dev, this is bait on a hook. But which fish does he hope to catch?
Does Dev reach high for the prize, or snatch at low-hanging fruit? The girl he wants accepts his invitation, then cancels at the last minute. Incredulous at her rudeness, Dev settles for the low hanging fruit. The new girl agrees, but soon the first girl–the one Dev really wants–texts back a change of plans. She is now available. Does Dev cancel on the new girl? Can he be so self-serving?
What are the ethics here, in a murky swamp of casual sexual relationships and near-anonymous-texts? Dev and his friend rationalize their bad behavior. The rules have changed now. Are changing still. They get to decide the new rules. All bets are off.
This Millennial world of moral floundering is confusing. Frustrating. Especially when it needs to be navigated via faceless texts. Dev is doing his best. His friends are rarely helpful. The sea is vast and the rudders have been removed. These sailors need to build their own rudders, while sailing, with no anchor. No way to stop moving. No land in sight.
We all know where this is headed. We've seen Dev and his friends 10 years down the line on another show. It's called Seinfeld. It is a show about nothing.
I wonder if that sums up the meaning of a life lived as Master of None.
Does a life mastered by no one and no thing mean nothing?
I wake up Sunday morning with Dev and his friends' moral plights ringing in my ears. I bring these characters with me to St.Faith's Church. They are here in the fourth pew, shifting uncomfortably. Texting away. Looking down to wonder what that little padded strip of wood is for.
That wooden bar is for kneeling. It flips down from the back of the pew in front of me. I'm still not used to using it. Still a little scared or self-conscious. I look around and find that the older the parishioner, the more likely this kneeling bar is to be used.
Why does my generation have a hard time kneeling? Why do Dev and I scoff at this idea of being mastered? Especially when it's so difficult to find our own way out here in a world of rapid change?
Dear God, in these vast and choppy seas I need a rudder.
This Sunday we begin Advent at St.Faith's. In churches around the world, everywhere. Even in the retail-industrial-complex, Advent remains in some distorted form. Secular Advent is still about waiting. Counting down.
In these darkening days, we are looking for a light switch. Netflix Dev and his Millenial friends. My wife and me in this pew.
As her sermon ends, Rev. Whittle tells us we are 'haunted by the Gospel'.
That's me. Haunted by the Gospel. Haunted in the pew, before the Reverend. Haunted on the couch, before the razor-sharp wit of Aziz Ansari.
I walk towards Advent wondering just what–just who–this King has mastered.