Glencairn Methodist Church
"Upside down, inside out"
Dear Reader, you need to know something about the social networking site called Facebook, and something about photography, to follow some of this Message. Apologies if you are not yet au fait but I am prepared to give lessons on request!
The Amateur Photographer magazine carries a weekly column called "Backchat" wherein readers are invited to "have their say". In a recent edition (22 February 2014), AP reader Carol Davies "rails against the modern trend of posting selfies on Facebook." She writes, "If there is one thing in photography that drives me to distraction, it is the selfie. These egotistic self-portraits are rife, irritating and just plain naff! And Oxford Dictionaries nominating selfie as the word of the year irritates me even more." [I had to teach my spell checker to recognise the word!]
Carol goes on, "I occasionally use Facebook to test out some of my own pictures - not selfies, but landscapes and macro shots of flowers. And I get cheesed off when a shot I'm particularly proud of receives no "likes" or comments at all. It's worse than someone totally panning one of my pictures. Then I check out a few female friends' selfies. Despite redeye, bleached-out faces and the limited poses possible with handheld self-portraits, the "likes" mount up like hungry gulls around a fishing boat. And the comments, such as 'fab pic babe', have me gnashing my teeth in rage."
I recently posted some photos (no selfies this time) on Facebook under the title, "A walk on Belfast's riverside with my little Lumix camera". So far I have received one comment - "excellent" - and twelve "likes", so I am well pleased. But yet I have lots more Friends from whom I have heard nothing. Perhaps the rest of them are politely ignoring me! I also feel sure that Carol Davies had her tongue at least partially in her cheek when she wrote her Backchat piece.
Facebook CAN be somewhat surreal at times, when values seem to get distorted, good is ignored and bad is praised. But that is its nature just as it is the nature of humanity. Things are turned "upside down and inside out", to borrow a phrase from Diana Ross's song and to use it in a different context. It is in the nature of men and women to "make a mess" of things. Theologians call it Original Sin. Compared to the way God would like it, things are upside down and inside out. It has ever been thus (at least since the time of Genesis chapter 3) and now this is considered to be normal - bad is good and good is bad.
The Christian Gospel is that Jesus, by inaugurating the Kingdom of God on Earth, has flipped things back to the way God would like them to be. But yet this feels as if JESUS is turning things upside down and inside out; his expectations of the Kingdom are so foreign to what we now consider to be the way things are. Read Jesus' "sermon on the mount" in Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7 to see what I mean.
Christians everywhere are currently celebrating the Season of Lent. It is considered to be a season for reflection on our lives and a time when one might recover or deepen intimacy with God. Even some half-believers are "giving something up for Lent", perhaps without realising that in this Season we remember the time of testing of Jesus in the wilderness before he began his teaching and healing ministry. I think "celebrating" is the right word, even though others might think of it as "enduring" the 40 days until Easter. We celebrate the fact that Jesus did not follow the ways of the world in seeking to influence others; throughout history and indeed at this very time, powerful rulers have used and are using force or the threat of force to compel others to submit to their wishes. We celebrate the fact that Jesus taught us how to follow his example. And, at the end of the Season, we celebrate that Jesus died on the Cross for us, so that we could accept God's gracious gift of forgiveness for the mess we make of life, followed by the gift of Eternal life with Him.
Make use of this time. Don't seek revenge when our friends (even our Facebook Friends) let us down or hurt us. If we feel shame or guilt at having hurt others, then ask for their forgiveness. Let us remember that the world IS upside down and inside out, but let us seek to turn it around.
8th March 2014
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm