Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetry Passage* (Psalm 81) transports me to the NC State Fair, where family fun runs the gamut from livestock exhibitions and cooking competitions to concerts and midway rides. What started out over 150 years ago as a simple agricultural exhibition, designed for farmers to proudly show off their craft and the health of the land through demonstrations of animal and vegetable husbandry, morphed over the years into an annual jamboree complete with circus atmosphere. The freak shows and carnival food have gotten to be more popular than the blue-ribbon-winning Hereford and largest tomato. Some years ago, the deep-fried fad started, and each year since the goal has been to find more and more outlandish foods to sample in the Fry Daddy. Deep-fried Twinkies and pickles and Oreos have given way to deep-fried scoops of battered butter or frozen Mountain Dew in recent years. For some, though, taste still reigns supreme over craziness and novelty when it comes to deep-fried fare. The bearded lady from the freak show is one of these with a discerning palate. On her blog this year, she and Flying Bob reviewed the assortment of deep fried offerings from the latest fair, and came away with this assessment: The deep-fried honey bun. . . is about as close to deep-fried heaven as you get. Mmmmm.
The poet begins Psalm 81 by calling for a drum and bugle corps to come and create some praise music, calling the crowd to a festive display of praise. The Judge reviews the demonstration of faith from the covenant community and deems them to be less than blue-ribbon, lamenting that the people have gotten away from the original intent of the covenant relationship, and have given way to the excesses of idolatry. What started out as a gathering of emancipated slaves demonstrating the art of praise and the health of the promised land, the husbandry of a vineyard of liberating grace, had morphed over time into a carnival of side-shows with the deities of imperial Egypt on display. There seems to be something deep in the human DNA that leads us to become dissatisfied with the freedom and pleasure of good work, with simple demonstrations of health and wholeness, and draws us instead toward the bright-light seductions of an enslaving empire. Blue-ribbon-winning cattle and roses and pies cannot compete with the bells and whistles and roller-coaster rides in the carnival of captivity.
The children of Israel may not have had Flying Bob and the bearded lady to amuse them, but they apparently spent a lot of time gawking at Aten and Isis and Ra and a pantheon of other strange and captivating gods. Grace has the last word, though. After the harsh judgment of the unsavory idolatry, the poem ends on a savory note from God: Open your mouth wide and I will fill it. . . I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. The finest of wheat, and honey from the rock. Sounds like the makings of a good honey bun to me. All they needed was a Fry Daddy, and they’d be about as close to deep-fried heaven as you get.
How about you? Where does this Poetry Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Google+, FB, Twitter, etc.