Some weeks ago there was a story in the news about a man who borrowed his son`s video camera to take away with him on holiday. Sadly, he didn`t know which way to point it… So when he got home all he had was two weeks` worth of film of his own face!
But this is just a rather extreme version of what many folk do all the time. Mobile phones are seen all over the place; and of course they`re more than just a phone. They play music, send e-mail and yes, they are cameras too.
And the neat feature that so many have latched onto is that you can effectively turn the camera lens around… so that you can hold it out there and take a picture not of the scenery, or the kids playing in the park but YOURSELF!
It`s all a bit sad really isn`t it? It`s just what we do these days and my guess is that in time to come you`ll be able to sum up a whole generation by pointing to this one activity… `The Selfie`. Yes, we can have some fun with it; but when you see people wandering around the street with a phone on the end of the stick attempting film themselves you do wonder.
By the way I`m told it`s called the `Selfie`, because they weren`t clever enough to spell `Narcissist`- That of course is the word we use to describe that self-absorbed way we behave when we`re infants… So again, seeing it in adults just makes you wonder.
But I wonder if you`ve noticed, that you never really see a good `selfie`. I mean, the `selfie` is always a bit wonky. Mostly, they`re pictures of people who are always slightly out of focus or too far to one side of the frame. And it seems to me that`s a good way of summing up this `selfie` generation.
We are encouraged from all sides, to be the centre of our own picture; the star of our own `movie of life` and as such we`re adrift. We seem compelled to create some significance for ourselves. And the harder we try the more wonky it gets.
We anxiously spend our time if not working all hours then as someone put it `entertaining ourselves to death`. It seems we`ll stop at nothing in our drive to find some way of justifying our existence… by what we do, by what we own, by our achievements.
We are to all intents and purposes `consumers` of life. This is the age of the `bucket list` of things we want to do or achieve…. After all, as the stars of our own movie, we have to give them something to talk about when they come to `celebrate` our life, don`t we?
I mean you can go to some funerals today and you`d hardly think anyone had died! We`re in denial. If we recognise dearth at all it`s all too often seen as a rather rude interruption. After all, we had other plans and other `selfies` to take didn`t we? And because we`re `at sea`; rootless and unsure of who we are we rear children in our own image and likeness.
We bring even more little `selfies` into the world, who are crying out for someone to guide and teach them who they are. To give them guidelines for living and to pass on some wisdom but we insist “No, no they must make their own choices” they must be little `selfies`.
And we mustn`t fall out with them or challenge their `selfie-ness`. What little time we have with them must be perfect, serene and idyllic; devoid of anything that smacks of the clarity and discipline they desperately need. So all they learn is how to take `selfies`.
And the `selfie` is always wonky because we try to take it ourselves. We try to give shape to our lives by ourselves and according to our own likes and dislikes… and it never comes out right. To get a really good picture of yourself you need someone else to take it… someone with an expert eye..… someone who can see the whole scene and ensure that bits aren`t falling off the edge.
In that Bible reading we heard a moment ago, (The Prodigal Son: Luke 15.11-32) Jesus tells a story about a young lad who was good at taking `selfies`… He was really good at placing himself at the centre of things ….or so he thought. Because it didn`t turn out well.
That story and in particular, the Father who comes running out to meet him is Jesus`s way of re-framing the picture. This is Jesus`s way of saying, “This is what life looks like when you give up taking `selfies`”.
Jesus told this story because people were moaning about the company he was keeping. They wanted to know why Jesus would bother with all the `selfie` takers in the world…? So he told them that he is just like the Father in that story. He`s come in search of the `selfie takers` like you and me.. to get us to turn the `camera` the right way round.
When he was at his lowest point we`re told very simply that the young lad “came to himself”. The Bible word we use for this is “Repent”.
In a few moments we`ll ask this of the parents and God Parents. “Do you repent of your sins…” basically, “Do you repent of your `selfie-ness?” It means dropping your agenda and trusting Jesus for his. It means no longer putting (or trying to put) yourself at the centre of the picture….. God is not the supporting actor in our drama… It`s the other way around. (Michael Horton)
In other words, let Jesus tell you who you are. Let him re-frame your life as a gift and not something to be grabbed and exploited; because real life is not a bucket list of things to do or a stage for your `selfie taking`.
In that story, Jesus says; “This is what life looks like when you are brought back into relationship with the Father who made and loves you. This is what it looks like when you know who you are ….and don`t need to take `selfies` anymore”.