- Pastor Brent
Thursday, October 23, 2014
NORMAL HEIGHTS UMC - WHO WE ARE?
You know they call corn-on-the-cob "corn-on-the-cob," right? But that's how it comes out of the ground, man. They should just call that "corn", and they should call every other version "corn-off-the-cob." It's not like if you cut off my arm you would call my arm "Mitch", but then reattach it and call me "Mitch-all-together.” - Comedian Mitch Hedberg
Mitch Hedberg is one of my favorite comedians of all time. Before his untimely death, he quickly became known for not only having a practically flawless sense of comedic timing and delivery, but also for being one of the absolute masters of observational humor. Hedberg was so funny because he routinely noticed and observed so many of the absurd things in life that we had forgotten about and learned to ignore. This was the power of his humor. He was able to rediscover things in everyday life that we had been taught to ignore. Not only was it humorous, but it also felt like pure discovery and exploration.
The “corn-on-the-cob” joke above is one such example. Hedberg astutely wonders aloud why we refer to corn as “corn-on-the-cob” when that is, in fact, its natural state. It begins on the cob, and so it feels absurd or necessary to refer to it as “corn-on-the-cob.” Wouldn’t it make more sense, Hedberg suggests, to just refer to canned corn as “corn-off-the-cob”? Its as ridiculous as if we were to refer to me as “Brent-all-together.” I’m just Brent… My primary state is already to be united and together. So, with “corn-on-the-cob”, how did we get to the point where saying this sort of phrase became accepted or normal? Truly, when did the primary state of corn become the “unusual” one?
The absurdities of this observation provide fertile ground for humor as Hedberg demonstrates, but this week I wondered about another situation where the primary state of something has become the “unusual” one; though a situation perhaps not as humorous. This week as I read the Scripture passage for Sunday from the book of Ephesians, it reminded me of how, in today's society, we may be confused about the natural and unnatural states of a reality.. the ideas of community and the individual. In the Scripture for Sunday, Paul, in writing to the church at Ephesus, reminds them that the true reality which they inhabit is a community, the Body of Christ which is the church. Using this idea of a body to its natural conclusion, Paul urges the church to remember that they “are the body of Christ.” Paul’s point is simple, but profound for us today. The true reality of the life of faith is not our individual development and growth, but instead who we are as a community. Paul asserts that we are not individuals who gather as the church, but instead a church community which sometimes acts as individuals. Our primary state is community.
But I think we live in a time that tells us otherwise. The core of our taught reality is the individual… individual rights, individual freedoms and individual choices. And while I am not necessarily denying these things, I do see a danger in these phrases teaching us that our primary state is the individual, rather than the church or body of Christ. This may mean that when we come to church, we are thinking about being fed spiritually, rather than thinking “How can I build up this community and those around me?” This week, we will consider how to reclaim the idea that our primary state is community, rather than the individual. If you would like to read the Scripture passage before then, you can find it here. See you on Sunday!
- Pastor Brent
4650 Mansfield Street, San Diego, Ca 92116