A Trip to Scranton

I am a huge fan of “The Office.”  A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to visit Scranton, PA and yes, like a total fan-geek, went on “The Office Fan Bus Tour.”  The twenty-five of us “Office” geeks paid for our ticket to walk through the Steamtown Mall, drive down “Mifflin” Avenue, take pictures of the “Penn Paper” landmark,  have lunch at “Cooper’s Seafood,” and even compete in relay races at Lake Scranton.  It was four hours of  embarrassingly good fun!  Even amidst the silliness, the Lord had a lesson He wanted me to learn from good ol’ Scranton, PA.

The group of us perfect strangers (who were from all over the country and even two from Canada) boarded the bus with great anticipation.  We went to every stop eager to soak up everything we could about this quirky little city that was home to our favorite show.  The tour guide, a young college student, filled the four hours with story after story and we hung on her every word.  The mall had character cut-outs serving as backdrops for photo-ops.  Advertising throughout the city boasted “Home of ‘The Office’.”  Even restaurants sold merchandise with quotes from the show.  It was a “fan’s” paradise!  But…

The reality is Scranton, PA has no more to do with “The Office” than any other city on the planet.  It just happens to be a city that some writers chose as a locale for a TV show several years ago.  The show itself is filmed in Los Angeles in a studio probably less than an hour from my house.  The actors don’t live in Scranton and until the show became famous had never even visited there. The ONLY portion of Scranton that even appears on the show is about a 15-20 second clip in the opening credits. Now, to give the producers some credit, they do try to make the show authentic by naming real businesses in the dialog and even using some magnets, bumper stickers, and signs in the background that are from Scranton’s Chamber of Commerce.  But all in all, while Scranton is very proud of “The Office”… it’s still just Scranton, PA!

Even though I knew perfectly well that “The Office” was just a TV show, there was a sense that by going to Scranton, somehow I’d be closer to those characters that I had grown to love.  The hype of the tour, being around other fans,  going to places we heard about on the show just made us feel like maybe – just maybe – there would be some “real” connection.

So, what was the lesson in all of this for me?  Authenticity! Please note: This is no slam against the City of Scranton.  They have done a fabulous job of capitalizing on the success of “The Office” and they are a very proud city.)   The lesson I learned was purely for me and perhaps for you.

As Christians, we had better be “the real deal!”  First of all, I hope that my life, my attitude, my actions and my words reflect what being a Christian really means.  I hope that the joy, the love, and the grace that I receive daily, reflects a life that is an “attraction” for people.  I want them to come to me and ask to sign up for the “Christianity bus tour” so that they can find out more!  (There’s no charge for admission, by the way.)  But when they get on that bus and start taking the tour of my life they had better see an authentic Christian life, not just a make-believe, facade.

I, too often, camp out in Scranton… I’m portraying a Christian outwardly but if you look closely, or take a behind the scene’s tour, your not any closer to Christ – in fact your thousands of miles away.  So what is the answer?  Do we try harder?  What I have discovered is the ONLY way, I can be authentic, is by being close and abiding in Him.  All of my striving to be a better Christian does nothing for my relationship with Him.  But if I spend time with Him, talk to Him, read and study His Word, make Him the focus and center of my life I can’t help but be more authentic.  Not because of my efforts… but because of Him and His transforming grace.

Jesus spoke so often about being one with the Father.  “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” (John 14:9)   And He wanted that same relationship for us.  “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  (John 17:21 emphasis mine)  I don’t want to be a Scranton-dweller.  I want to dwell in Christ so that He is in me and I am in Him.  And, so that when someone signs up for the tour… they don’t meet me… they meet HIM!

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