Would You Like Fries with That?

In my more cynical teaching days–also known as weekdays–I have desired to toss certain words at some of my low-achieving students. The exchange that I pictured went something like this:

Me: You’re just not writing at a college level here.

Them: But that’s just the way that I write.

Me: Oh, okay. Then you should practice this phrase: Do you want fries with that?

Related to that response is the long-considered, never-deployed idea of stapling a McDonald’s application to someone’s pitiful paper. These are the mental tricks that get some teachers through the long, dark days of the semester.

Let’s be clear that there’s no shame in somebody working at McDonald’s. My first job was at a fast-food place. I met my wife working there. But what if either Penny or I had been content to just keep slinging tacos and asking the Taco John’s equivalent of “Do you want fries with that?” Would that have been okay?

In exploring my “Better than Amazon” idea recently, I shared my encounter with “Megan” at Sutherland’s. You might recall that Megan was a little clueless in seeking out the two items that I wanted to buy. She simply couldn’t see one of the things and wrote the number down wrong on the other.

What Megan did possess that many people who will work their lives away in “Do you want fries with that?”-level jobs was some initiative. She wanted to help me. She wanted to find stuff for me. Granted, she failed on that afternoon with me, but she’ll know where the miter-saw stands are next time. She’ll take better care writing down the number next time. Unless I miss my guess, Megan will be more helpful when next I enter her store.

Look around your church and hopefully you’ll see people of various different ages, from children to grey-heads. What’s not so obvious, though, is the range of spiritual ages. We have far too many people in our churches who have been Christians for 40 years yet have only a year or two of maturity to their credit. These people sprang up in enthusiasm at some point but then stopped growing. These are the sort that Paul spoke to in 1 Corinthians 3:

For my part, brothers and sisters, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, since you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready,

When fast-food joints hire people, they frequently start them on the register, which makes sense. You can’t burn the register, and you’re unlikely to cause food poisoning from there. Those are the people who learn to ask “Do you want fries with that?” Ideally, they will master that task and then move on to other, more demanding assignments. Many fast-food workers “graduate” to other employment that requires more skill and discipline, paying better also.

For a new follower of Jesus, there is no shame in working the church’s equivalent of the fast-food counter. There is shame, however, in not doing that to the best of our ability, of not growing beyond it if we have the ability. There is shame in, 30 years after our salvation, still complacently asking, “Do you want fries with that?”

Easter Zombies

You never thought you’d hear those two words together, did you? I determined to put that sentence down as my lead, and then thought it might be fun to do a Google search for that phrase. And it turns out that “easter zombies” has appeared in several guises including on an anti-religious “deist” site, which mocks Matthew 27:52-53:

The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And they came out of the tombs after his resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.

In fairness, that is a surprising pair of verses, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard a preacher take that as his central text. We shouldn’t be surprised that a skeptic, someone leaning wholly on human reason, would fasten on this as a problem point in the gospels.

But those are not the “zombies” I’m talking about. In popular culture, zombies are the bodies of dead people that are reanimated, somehow, inexplicably, and that wander around the countryside attempting to eat people who are still living. In many versions, these zombies are obsessed with eating brains.

These aren’t my Easter zombies either. The Easter zombies are those people staggering into the church on that one spring morning, more out of a sense of habit or compulsion than from any true devotion to God. Maybe going to church is the price they pay to enjoy peacefully a family dinner and Easter-egg hunt during the afternoon.

The problem with these people is that, like the zombies on TV, they’re dead. Maybe they’re truly spiritually dead, or maybe they have that spark of Christian life within but they’re so wrapped up in dead works that they might as well, from an outward appearance, be still lost in their sins.

Two times in Hebrews we read about people who are dealing with dead works, and in Hebrews 9:14, the writer urges us to “cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God.”

The Easter zombies don’t serve the living God. They’ll think more of jelly beans than Jesus, more of Peeps than God’s people.

While some of them are, as noted before, spiritually dead, some of them are technically believers but the sort who Paul describes, in 1 Corinthians 3:12, as building on Christ’s foundation with “wood, hay, or straw.” But then don’t we all do that now and again? Sure I might build with precious materials, I might serve the living God 90% of the time, but what of the other 10%. Should I look at your 80%/20% split or the bona fide Easter zombie’s 5%/95% split and boast? Aren’t we all really zombies to one degree or another?

I will walk into my church service this morning with a grateful and joyful heart because I am, like every other person wrapped up in this body of death, a little bit zombie. It is not for me to judge those who are more zombie, more far gone than me. It is for me, for us, beloved, to pray for them and to love them. It’s our place to believe in the truth that these bones can live again.

You will know that I am the Lord, my people, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.–Ezekiel 37:13

He is risen! And He can make the dead alive again. Praise the Lord of the Easter zombies.