God Friended Me*… The title drew our attention the first time we heard it. My husband is the Facebook aficionado in our house. He knows all about being friended. Mike also posts messages and photos with ease on his Facebook page. He sends private messages on occasion as well. I, on the other hand, only briefly utilized a Facebook page which my friend set up and then took down for me. I’d planned to post my daily reflections via the popular site, but the process became more time-consuming than I’d hoped. So it is that I rely upon Mike to keep me apprised of current events from his Facebook page which involve our family and friends. Still, in spite of my Facebook inadequacy, I do know enough to realize that being friended is a good thing. Being friended by God is more than amazing! This is the reason Mike and I were enticed into watching at least the first episode of God Friended Me, a television series which debuted on CBS this past September. Though it’s rare for me to make the time to regularly view any show, I admit that I was committed to this one after that first episode.
The recipient of God’s apparent friend request is Miles Finer, a young man in his early twenties. Miles is a self-professed atheist who shares his disbelief through his daily podcast. Every day, he uses his computer to stream his message via the internet in the same way our favorite radio hosts broadcast their shows. Miles is an extremely likable young man with a good heart. It was the unfortunate loss of his mom to a drunk driver’s recklessness which assured him of God’s nonexistence. His dad, an Episcopal priest who drowned his sorrow in his work at the church, was far too distraught himself to comfort Miles or his sister. This only solidified Miles assertion that there really is no God. The series begins some years after this loss. It was during that first episode that Miles received a strange internet message which indicated that God had friended him. Good atheist that he is, Miles was intrigued by a sender who would disguise him or herself as God. He was even more intrigued when this God-person suggested a subsequent friend to Miles. When Miles pursued this potential friend, an amazing saga of being in the right place at the right time to help that potential friend began to unfold. By the end of that episode, Miles had made a significant difference to that person and he’d become more curious than ever about what he now called The God Account.
A good deal has occurred since Episode One. Miles still has no idea of who manages The God Account. He’s enlisted his friends to assist him with both God’s friend suggestions and the good deeds which result. This curious band of do-gooders search for the God-person during every minute of their spare time. It hasn’t occurred to them that God may actually be involved. Mike and I are fairly certain that God has literally stepped into Miles’ life. We’re perfectly comfortable with God’s unpredictable intervention via social media in each episode. How can we argue with the concept that God really is at work in our lives?
I’m sharing this viewing adventure because the scripture passages we hear today underscore God’s presence among us. They also acknowledge that our woes are most likely to get the best of us when we ignore our loving God who remains with us through everything. In the first reading from Jeremiah (Jeremiah 17:15), the prophet insisted that God truly was the only one worthy of the people’s trust. When they learned to bring God into their daily lives, they would find true peace and consolation. In his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20), Paul addressed the people’s doubt that Jesus had actually risen. “If you don’t believe this,” Paul seemed to ask, “what is there to live for?” In the gospel (Luke 6:17, 20-26), Luke underscored these assertions through Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. Though he saw their suffering, Jesus called the lowly before him to look at the world through God’s eyes. Jesus asked the people to view the world of riches and indulgence, status and security in a new way. Jesus asked the people to see with eyes opened to the joy of true blessedness. The things of this world meant little if they didn’t lead those who possessed them back to God’s love. Though Jesus’ words were difficult to accept in the midst of their hunger, Jesus persisted in assuring all who would hear him that true happiness lay in God’s company.
It would have been much easier for the crowds to embrace Jesus’ message if they could have seen a happy ending without commercial breaks at the end the hour. If others who’d experienced the fruits of Jesus’ influence in their lives would have told their stories, the crowds might have found it easier to respond to Jesus’ words. I relate to their trepidation as I wrestle with the troubles of this life. Part of the pleasure of watching God Friended Me is that the characters’ struggles do end well when they pay attention to that persistent God-person. Like Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus, Miles and his friends remind me that I must do the same. You know, none of us needs a social media account to be friended by God. This occurred the moment God breathed life into us and nothing will ever change that.
©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved
*GOD FRIENDED ME, Greg Berlanti, Producer, Steven Lilien & Bryan Wynbrandt, Writers; CBS; Sundays,7:00 PM Central Time