Look at your world. See Yourself.
A Homily for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
The eponymous hero of the hit Apple TV+ series “Ted Lasso” begins each work day by bringing his boss, Rebecca Welton, his home-baked cookies. Ted coaches a professional London-based soccer team, AFC Richmond. Rebecca gained ownership of it in a divorce settlement.
Before crossing the wide pond that separates Britain from her former colonies, Ted was an American football coach for Wichita State. The show’s comedic premise is not just the survival but the real spread of kindness, which the Kansas-bred coach brings to the hypercompetitive world of professional European soccer.
Drawing laughs from the collision of disparate worlds has a long sitcom pedigree. The hillbillies moved to Beverly Hills, while a New York corporate lawyer and his socialite wife decamped to Hooterville. A witch named Samantha became a suburban housewife. The creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky family next door was named Addams.
In their lighthearted way, these comedies illustrate a fundamental truth about what it means to be human, one brought to prominence in the work of Martin Heidegger. The 20th-century philosopher minted a new term for a human being, Dasein, which roughly translates from the German as “being there.”
Heidegger’s point is that none of us coolly observe our surrounding worlds. No, each of us is thrown into a world. We have no choice but to “be there.” So much so, that it is hard to say where we end and our worlds begin. Put another way, looking for the core of a person apart from her world of care and concern is like peeling away layers of an onion. You cannot distill a soul from its surrounding world. You cannot take the Kansas out of Ted any more than you can remove the hills from hillbillies.
When you pose the kingdom question, the focus shifts from what we do to why we do it. Or better, for whom?
All of this is helpful when we ask ourselves the question that the scriptures pose in speaking of an industrious wife and the careful stewardship of treasure: Are we fruitful? Do our lives build up the kingdom of God? Or what will God want when we are asked to account for our lives?
Use this little lesson on Heidegger and Hollywood to help formulate your answer. Ask yourself, how big is your world of care and concern? How deeply involved are you in the lives of your loved ones? Do you have loved ones?
Granted, most of our time is spent making money, driving somewhere, cleaning, or cooking something up, solving problems and meeting deadlines. This is true of any productive life. When you pose the kingdom question, the focus shifts from what we do to why we do it. Or better, for whom?
Those whom you love and serve are the layers of your life. How many, and how large are they? If you want to know how fruitful your life is in the eyes of heaven, examine your relationships. If running ragged is rooting you in your relationships, and the lives of your loved ones, you are fruitful. Conversely, if running ragged means running from the ones whom you love, something is not right.
It can happen to anyone. We began running for a purpose, for the faces we loved. One day we look up and discover those faces far behind us. We have just been running.
If you want to know how fruitful your life is in the eyes of heaven, examine your relationships.
“You can’t take it with you” remains quite true in speaking about things we own. They will pass. “You’ve got nothing else to take with you,” is also true, but it refers to the heaven-bound person we become each time that we love and serve another.
And the Scriptures insist that our worlds of care and concern must be larger than those who can return our love. The world of the highly praised wife of Proverbs includes strangers.
She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy (31:20).
The charm of Ted Lasso is that he converts corporate London into a corner of Kansas. Put another way, once Ted enters that world of ambition and greed, he draws it into his world of care and concern. Ted learns to call them biscuits in London, but he begins by baking cookies in the world he calls Kansas.