It has been said what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. And this has come to be more true than just keeping the “wild” that happened from being expressed in the “civilized.” The truth is that despite all the parties, concerts and mystic around the desert town, Vegas is just not that wild.
Of course most people who go to Vegas do not have the experience that we see in movies or have in our imaginations. Few people wake up with a tiger in their hotel room or win it big at the high rollers table. Still with all the promiscuity and sense of “all is allowed,” Vegas is not that wild because Vegas is an escape.
Vegas is the iconic escape location. Like all forms of escape, Vegas does give you access to the source that can transform your life, it only gives you an escape from your current life for a bit before you have to return to it. Escapism is among the most common ways to live our lives. It is seen when we are living for the weekend. The weekend is the “everymans” Vegas. We party hard on Friday and Saturday, recover on Sunday and then catch a “case of the Mondays” to start the next week. We do things on the weekend that we would/could not do in the week and we are “recharged” by these customs. We sleep in. We party. We drink and rest.
Escapism is also seen in the way we worship on Sunday mornings. We use language to talk about going to worship so we “can recharge” or “fill up” for the week. We talk about “re-connecting” with God on Sunday or, as one person said to me once, we get our “God fix” for the week. Worship is for many of us a form of escape – it gives us respite but we do not allow it to transform our lives. In this respect, Vegas and worship accomplish the same effects with different means.
The call is not to avoid the escapes in our lives. It is good to escape every now and again. The problem is when we cling to escapes we cannot grab a hold of the transformative. This is why worship calls us to “let go” and “open our hands” to “receive” and “give thanks.” Worship can be treated as an escape. It can also be the means to transformation. If worship is not leading us toward change and transformation and only feeding and nurturing, then worship may be an escape.
Remember “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is more than a slogan. It is the sirens song of escapism. If “what happens in worship stays in worship”, then worship is a less flashy manifestation of Vegas.