Sunday, October 7, 2012

Another Angle--Church and Society

This sermon is also based on the lectionary readings found here. As with Daniel and the Lions' Den a couple months ago, the different worship settings brought about very different sermons this week.

As we heard in the Children’s Sermon, there has been a bit of a shift in the last however-many years. Bible Studies are done online and phone calls happen with instant video chat. Birds are angry creatures that fly into bricks. Something that blows up on Facebook means it’s popular.

This video was shown at the recent ECSW workshop Faith Formation in the 21st Century in Plover, Wisconsin. It looks at some of the statistics that reflect the shift our culture has undergone in the past few years.
Ok, who understood everything in that video? Anyone feel overwhelmed? Anyone need to see it six more times just to catch it all? There are probably a few things in there that were unexpected or shocking, but they’re all true. They’re all reality. Getting confronted with reality is sometimes shocking and unexpected, but it’s there, and we need to acknowledge that if we are to understand our world and be able to function in it.

In the Psalm for today, the writer knows what it means to see the world and feel…overwhelmed. The universe is so big, the person so small. “What are human beings that you, O God, would notice them? Mere mortals that you would think on them?” The vastness of the world is almost unbelievable. The thing is, that is still true. The world is still vast and unbelievable at times.

What do we do with that—with something like this? We can’t reject it outright—it’s just facts. Data. If we run away and pretend it doesn’t exist, we’re really just fooling ourselves because really, there is no earth where technology doesn’t exist anymore. We can’t uninvent the internet.

Who would want to? We literally have the world at our fingertips now. We can be in dialog with people across the country and world in a matter of seconds.

In our gospel lesson, Jesus points to the people who would be discarded by society on a whim—the women and the children in his time—and says “You can’t do that anymore—you’re ignoring the importance of other human beings and what they bring. You're missing out here.”
That’s also true for us. We can’t ignore the life experiences and the skill sets of people who have grown up with this technology or the people who know how to use it—they’re the little ones who carry the future of the church—here and elsewhere. We can't miss out on that. Again—why would we want to?

Okay, let's look at the other side of this coin…What if we embraced all this new stuff? Used it? Made ourselves accountable as Christians with it?
(There are a lot of ways to stay morally accountable when it comes to technology--think of comment threads) 

I admitted to the children in the children's sermon that there were technologies even I didn’t understand, but they could help me. However, that only works if I listen and am ready to learn—if I open myself up to the change this new information will inevitably create in me.

There were two seminary professors I had who used technology to its fullest. One of them would tell us to go on Wikipedia or Facebook or Google to help us learn. The other said something I’ll never forget. “If I came to visit you in ten years, and you were still reading just 2010 theology books, I would be disappointed.”

That professor knew that there was constantly new scholarship, new ideas, and that to stay relevant, we needed to stay current—there may have been a lot of valuable information and good theology then, but 2010 wasn’t the final word in Christianity—neither was 1990, 1950, or whatever year—pick a decade.

Last question for now—anyone excited by this video? We are in an era that connects us in more ways than we could have imagined five or ten years ago. That’s how it works. Jesus didn’t say anything about the internet, but he did say that the world would be changing. This change, do we dismiss it, hope it goes away, or do we talk about it, use it, work with it to make ourselves better individuals? Better people? Better Christians?

There is something of great potential out there—it depends on how we use it. The world is changing. There is a whole new set of opportunities to learn, make connections, and network with the world. That sounds like good news to me. Our question isn’t if, it’s how we go forward with that. We’re already doing quite a lot—now we get to ask what else is out there.

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