Thursday, September 24, 2009

It's all in the packaging

Good morning God,

I was not surprised to learn that the Bible is still the world best selling book - what did surprise me was the claim that it is also the most shoplifted book. It seems odd to think of someone stealing a bible - what do they do when they come to the 1o commandments and read 'You shall not steal'? Do they take it back?
Bookstores say that the most common reason people give if they are caught is that they believe the Bible ought to be free to whoever wants to read it - but those who steal it seldom take the cheap paper-back version, it's usually the leather bound, red-letter, gold leaf edition that goes missing.
The packaging doesn't change the message, each Bible still has only four gospels, but the appearance, the binding, the type-face, the cost, all seem to affect how people engage with it. It's just one more illustration of how we have been 'sold' false values. The more 'expensive' the product, the greater its value, and the more we should desire it - after all we are 'worth it' - aren't we?
But its all just packaging..
We know it, but seem helpless to resist it, in every area of life..
As part of their campaign to lure shoppers back, for example, many supermarkets are introducing a 'basics' range. This includes items like fresh fruit and veg which might not LOOK perfect, but which are just as nutritious. Carrots have kinks, marrows are curved, tomatoes have bulges, apples have marked skins.. the taste and the calories are the same as their more 'perfect' cousins. But even when we KNOW that there is no health or financial advantage to buying the more aesthetically pleasing product we insist that if it looks better, it must be better.
But its all just packaging
And what is true of bibles and carrots, is even more true of people and faith..

The truth of your love and grace may not be 'free' in its highly packaged form, but that doesn't mean it needs to be stolen. You give it away freely in its basic form, in the presence of the risen Christ, and in the friendship, love and grace that you offer.

God, keep me from ever selling out and trying to peddle a perfect faith for perfect people.. help me to help those who seek you, to find you in the content rather than the presentation of your gospel, in the way in which it is really lived out, with all its messiness, insecurities, challenge, doubts and vulnerabilities. Help me to shatter the myth of the white-nightie Jesus with his perfect people, and give me the courage and the confidence to proclaim the 'basic' truth - that each of us are made by you, unique, special, different and good - regardless of how we are packaged!

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