I recently allowed myself to be talked into attending a dinner theater that featured a "murder mystery." Diners, we were told, would be drawn into the cast and challenged to identify the guilty party from among the host of suspicious characters. The latter doubled as the wait staff. The service was painfully slow, but after the first course it was hard to generate much anticipation for the entree anyway. It was the acting, however, that made the evening seem interminable. The real mystery was how any of us made it to the third act-or the dessert course.

The play's characterizations were shallow. The paid cast must have faked their acting credentials. The diners shanghaied into minor roles were good sports, but their performances were less convincing than rainy-day charades at summer camp. The most useful adjective is fake. We were all fakes-chef, actors, and amateurs alike.

Ironically, a diner drafted to play "Pastor Jake" was in real life a pastor. The maitre d', who was also the stage director, selected him because of all the men in the room he thought him "to look least like a clergyman." So in this comedy of errors, even the genuine seemed counterfeit.

CRAVING THE REAL THING

On the drive home, I pondered how loudly the evening had cried out for integrity. If only there had been a few believable moments, moments with the ring of authenticity, the night might not have been such a disappointment. Just a grain or two of genuineness would have met the need.

Life is like that. We crave the "real thing." We rebel at the fake and the false, especially in matters of faith.

Jesus was always searching for genuine faith. When the Roman centurion requested his servant's healing, even ...

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