Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What's Trending Now?

Let me tell you something that never fails to bug me. I’ll be watching the local news (yes, I still watch TV news, and I read a hard copy of a newspaper almost every day – in other words I am old), and the reporter will say, “Let’s see what is trending right now” or “Let’s see what is blowing up on the blogosphere.” Invariably this is a lead-in to something that a certain percentage of those on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media seem to be in an uproar about at that second. An hour or two later, that trend will likely have died down to be replaced by something of even less importance. For a few minutes last week, the huge trending story according to a local Cleveland news program was the question of whether or not Beyonce had lines and blemishes on her face. Some unretouched photos of her had been released which seemed to indicate that Beyonce might have a few pimples. Now the Beyonce complexion scandal was a welcome relief from yet one more weather person standing outside in a parka announcing: “Cooooooooold, it will be cooooooold. Bundle up the kiddies.” That’s a story we’ve all seen too much of in recent weeks. But it seems obvious to me anyway that even the expression “trend” indicates something of little lasting importance. A trend is a fad, isn’t it? Something that is popular today and forgotten tomorrow. With so much around us every day that is trending, I am more interested in what is of lasting importance. Something that will be here today and tomorrow (and maybe was even around yesterday). In one scene from the movie “Birdman” which won the Best Picture Oscar this past week, Riggan Thompson (played by Michael Keaton) is arguing with his daughter (played be Emma Stone) about what is important and relevant. Here is part of the daughter’s rant against her father: You hate bloggers. You mock Twitter. You don't even have a Facebook page. You're the one who doesn't exist. You're doing this because you're scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don't matter and, you know what, you're right. You don't! It's not important, okay? You're not important! Get used to it. How do we separate the important from the irrelevant? Does a presence on the Internet through Facebook, Twitter, or a blog indicate that someone or something is newsworthy and noteworthy? Or is it all just something that is trending now but is ancient history later? As some of you know, I was in the Boston area in early February working with a couple of churches. One of the churches recently celebrated its 300th birthday. In other words, that congregation is older than the United States of America by over 50 years. By the standards of churches in Europe and other areas, three hundred is not very many years old, but I was still impressed. That is a congregation that hasn’t been just a trend or a fad or a passing fancy. It was born many generations ago and has been successfully passing on the faith. But the members of that congregation know that despite three hundred years of ministry, they are not guaranteed to last even another generation without constant and continuous effort. And they now have a Facebook page. If YouTube had been around during the time of Jesus, I am sure that clips of some of his teachings would have made their way onto the Internet. Some who Jesus healed would have written their memoirs and appeared on TV to promote them: “I was Blind but now I See” or “Living with Leprosy – The Secret of Softer Skin.” I am sure that even the Resurrection may have trended for a time online. But I am also certain that after awhile, cute camel videos would have replaced the Sermon on the Mount clips. So often, we are attracted by that which amuses us rather than that which challenges and changes us. Lent has just started and Easter is a number of weeks away. During this season, I encourage you to spend some of your time and invest some of your heart in consciously connecting with that wise teacher Jesus of Nazareth. He shared a message that has outlasted all of the messengers who have brought it to others. What is trending now in your life? What is of lasting value now in your life?