This week at my internship cluster meeting I saw my first Nooma video (Rhythm), the highly stylized video reflections from Rob Bell, a leader in the new generation of evangelicals. Both from the introduction it was given and from what I had heard from many other sources previously, I was supposed to be impressed, overwhelmed, moved and otherwise wowed.
It was . . . alright.
The highly stylized production quality was incredibly distracting to
me. The folks in the video didn’t look very real to me at all. They all
seemed to have walked off the pages of an airbrushed Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. With their Starbucks coffee cups, über hip clothing,
and perfect hair, I was confronted with a crowd of people who seemed just a bit too "cool" for me.
And then there are the odd camera angles. Sometimes Rob Bell is looking at the camera. Sometimes we see his profile. Sometimes we see the back of his head. Despite the angle, however, we usually can catch a glimpse of his fashionable glasses and overstyled hair.
Let me be clear – the spoken text itself was pretty good. Rob Bell’s message is a personal, passionate and fresh message about faith and the life of discipleship. As a printed text his words would have been a pretty good devotion.
It only gets a "pretty good," however. From his website description of this video he writes:
Maybe it’s through trusting Jesus and living the kind of life he taught us to live – a life of truth, love, justice, compassion, forgiveness, and sacrifice – that we have a relationship with God.
What Rob Bell is telling us is that our relationship with God may be a product of the way we live our life. But I wonder if I’m truly capable of doing these things – living a life of truth, love, justice, compassion, forgiveness, and sacrifice – without a relationship with God in the first place.
Well, that’s the kicker. Contra Rob Bell, my relationship with God is not dependent upon how I live my life. God has a relationship with me no matter what – that’s just God’s nature, and that’s why we baptize infants. God loves that infant and has a relationship with that infant even though she doesn’t live a life of truth, love, justice . . . it’s just eating, sleeping and pooping for her.
But God doesn’t care. God just loves.
What Rob should have told us is that our life of truth, love, justice, compassion, forgiveness, and sacrifice is possible as a joyful response to the love of God, a love that came to us before we were even formed in the womb, before we hear the Word of God proclaimed, before we ever made a decision for Christ or a decision to sleep in on Sunday mornings. Before any of that, God loves us.
And this love of God is best shared not through a funky video or a great website or any other technology. No. This love of God comes to us incarnate, in the flesh and blood of our brothers and sisters who are "little Christs" (as Luther put it) to us. That is, this love of God comes to us in relationship – raw, real, authentic relationship. Yes, this video series is an attempt to present a raw, real and authentic faith, but at the end of the day such a faith is nurtured not in front of the television, computer monitor or digital projection screen, but in face-to-face encounters, in community, in the Body of Christ.
The Body of Christ, given for you. The Blood of Christ, shed for you. Thanks be to God!