On TV titles and credits and their connection to Easter.
Earlier this year I decided I would begin to watch The West Wing. I know, I know. It's acclaimed, it's popular and it's been around for a long time. The fact was, I had tried a couple of times and found it too fast and too smart for me.
With advice from some West Wing loving friends, I began right at the beginning with the subtitles on and it worked.
Season One was addictive and I've moved on to Season Two. Will President Bartlet tell the world about his MS? Will Josh ever kiss Donna?
(Don't tell me. I want to see it for myself.)
Trying to get through the Quickflix discs at a reasonable pace, I've been watching a couple of episodes a night and the other evening I thought, "You know, I could fast forward through the titles. That would be quicker. I've seen all that intro bit before. What value does it have? I just want to get to the new stuff and the action."
I found the remote control but for some reason I didn't press forward. Instead I sat and watched the titles, but with slightly new eyes. What value did these titles actually have? What did it matter that I sat and watched them instead of zooming forward to the story?
To begin with, the music set the tone. Then the pictures and the titles reminded me who the characters were. The whole segment reminded me of the world I was entering and of what I had seen in the past and prepared me for the action to come.
In one way, the titles and credits of a TV show are a ritual. And rituals are important in our life.
This Easter weekend I was extremely busy. Not only did I have all my regular life stuff to do, but I'd also signed up to organise a school fundraiser - a two day Bargain Sale catering to the tourists that flood our little town on the long weekend. It required two full days of hard, busy work. As well as that, I had said yes to providing cakes for a cake stall raising money for Tear Fund, to going to Sydney to see family, and I was committed to attending all our church Easter services. I didn't sleep incredibly well because of anxiety about the Sale and I had to seriously organise my time to get everything done.
So it was moving and important to sit in a Christian Passover dinner on the Thursday night before it all began. We ate food and said words together which symbolized our beliefs and verbalised our place in the world. We connected to each other and to God by remembering what had come and by looking forward to what was coming. We sang a song and we prayed.
The ritual was rather like TV titles. It positioned me for the action of the weekend. It reminded me that my place in the broader story of life is important, that the action ahead takes place within a context, and that I am not just the sum of my busyness or at the mercy of whatever is urgent today.
Rituals - whether they be church, birthdays, celebrations, graduations, national rememberances or whatever - define us. They put us in context. They tell us who we are. They set the scene for what we do and what we believe ourselves to be.
This Easter I was busy, but it was a busy-ness that was set within the context of forgiveness, sacrifice, love and hope for the future because of Jesus. I'm glad I took the time to sit quietly with the rituals and remember who I am and who God is.
And I won't be tempted to skip the titles of a TV show again.