Easter and The Tyranny of Novelty
It is stunning how fast the new and flashy becomes old and ho-hum. A two year old cell phone is hopelessly outdated. At four or five years, computers are ready for the dumpster. In case we think this is a brand new phenomenon of technology, how fast did skirt lengths or tie widths change in years past? The “tyranny of novelty” is a cruel master because it is never satisfied and always requires the next thingamabob, the new color, the next purchase.
In some ways, there is a rebellion afoot. Millenials (roughly, those 15 to 30 years old now), when they go to church, are spurning the contemporary churches of their boomer parents and going for much more traditional forms of worship. But the general cultural obsession with novelty is undeniable.
Preachers are not immune to this. We want the latest program, the newest insight. And when it comes to preaching on holidays like Christmas and Easter, we feel the pressure every year to come up with something new and shiny. But the reality is that novelty never satisfies. Its titillation lasts only until the next, slightly more glittery thing comes along.
Before I was ordained, I worked as a youth minister at a large parish in St. Louis. The Associate Rector that I worked with had long wanted a Jeep Cherokee. Finally, the time came for him to trade in his old car and he leased a new Cherokee. Initially, he was thrilled, but within a month, he confessed to me that he had gotten into a friend’s Cherokee that had more bells and whistles and he was already finding himself dissatisfied with the vehicle he had so long wanted.
The tyranny of novelty is not new. St. Luke, with great disdain, wrote that “all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new.” (Acts 17:21) St. Paul warned that the time would come (and I think it is here) when “people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires.” (2 Timothy 4:3)
On the other hand, the church is about the business of the Gospel. Not an ever changing Gospel of modernity and flash and glitter, but the unchanging bedrock of Jesus, and His love for us worked out on the cross and in the empty tomb. Remember the chorus of the old hymn?
I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
So I’m going to make the choice this Easter season to be satisfied with the old, old story. I’m not going to get caught in the tyranny of novelty. I will join St. Paul who said, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) Let’s celebrate Easter as a reminder of the unending truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection at work in our lives today. Most of us need to be reminded of the basics pretty often anyway!
This appeared in the April 2018 issue of St. John’s “Good News.” Click here for current or past issues of the “Good News.”