Want to confuse Jeff Lucas? Just offer him six different options for how he’d like his eggs done
It was our first time in America. We were savouring the experience of eating breakfast out at what was unappetisingly tagged as a ‘greasy spoon’ diner. Our server was a wildly enthusiastic soul, apparently thrilled to be helping us with the first meal of the day. But the ordering process soon became perplexing.
“And what can I get for you fine folks?” he twilled, all teeth and smiles.
“I’d like eggs and bacon please,” I replied, eager to keep things simple, which they were not.
“Awesome, sir!” he chirruped, as if I had discovered the solution to global warming. “And sir, how would you like those eggs?”
Bewilderment immediately set in. “Err…on a plate?” I ventured.
“Ha ha! Awesome, sir! Very witty. No, you can have your eggs scrambled, boiled or fried – over easy, sunny side up or over hard.”
Baffled by this unfamiliar glossary of terms, I went for what sounded most familiar.
“Awesome! What about toast? We have sourdough, wholegrain, wheat, white, rye or English muffin?”
Now I was really confused, not least because I was unaware that the English have their own muffins. I went for wheat toast. But the culinary inquisition continued and I had to decide whether I wanted American or Canadian bacon, and would I like it crispy, and would I like to add further side dishes? When our ecstatic server eventually skipped joyfully towards the kitchen, I felt exhausted.
As a consumer, I was being given the opportunity to have things exactly the way I wanted them.
Perhaps that’s just fine. But when an attitude of consumerism enters the Church, we’re headed for trouble. We all have our preferences and style choices about how church should be – if you doubt that, ask any worship leader. We like the volume just right, the songs that are our favourites and we want the leader/vicar/pastor to use our chosen translation of the Bible, if you please. Some of us prefer pews (move them at your peril!) while others opt for chairs. Even though the song is now more ancient than modern, Frank Sinatra’s ‘My way’ is still quite a favourite at funerals.
We live and die quite liking things to be the way we like them.
Surely the cursed Covid plague has accentuated our sense of individualism and consumerism. It’s been wonderful to see churches large and small adapt, offering online services of varying quality (my personal favourite is of the lone vicar who accidentally set himself alight while pontificating next to a candle). But now, we no longer need to experience Sunday morning pre-church tension: gathering the family, calming conflict over cornflakes, finding a parking space, dodging the usher with halitosis…
Courtesy of the internet, we can jump on and offline as we like. Don’t enjoy that hymn? Simple, fast-forward through it. Is the sermon somewhat snore-inducing? Log off. Watch when you want, what you want, in the comfort of your pyjamas. Once Covid has been tamed, virulent consumerism may well linger.
So, as we begin to gather again, let’s do so as congregants and family, not picky customers who demand that things are always done to our liking. When it comes to church, there really is only one King.
Meanwhile, back at the diner, our previously ebullient server was looking distraught. He’d mistakenly ordered my scrambled eggs as fried, sunny side up. We did our best to comfort him, but in that temple of having-it-my way, I thought he was going to cry…