September 19, 2021
SCRIPTURE: Numbers 21:4b-9
I am nearly finished with this irregular series that attempts to share with you what I envision for St. John’s. Again, I want to assure you that just because I envision it, doesn’t mean it ought to become reality. I throw it out because I think it is part of my job assigned to me at the first meeting with Council 3 years ago. Visioning. You, however, have the final word.
This one is tech. When I mentioned this to Mary Ann, she said: “What scripture are you going to use?” Now you know! Let me see if I can make sense of the choice.
You know the OT story of the escape of Israelites from Egypt – the confrontation with Pharaoh, the plagues, the exodus (the night when they all got up and left), and the crossing at the Red Sea. All that was pretty exciting. Then came the desert – not so exciting! Hot, dry, long, and inhabited by people not too keen to welcome a gaggle of foreigners on the run traipsing through their land.
So there were plenty of obstacles. No food and the food they could gather was detestable, they said. So, they complained to Moses and to God and God said: “If you’re going to complain about THIS, I’ll give you something to really complain about: SNAKES!” Poisonous ones which that part of the world has aplenty! They terrorized the people and some died, the Israelites saw it as punishment from God. So they cried out to Moses for relief in fear for their lives.
The relief was pretty amazing. Moses had his artisans create a bronze snake and then he fastened it to a pole so it could be lifted high over everyone’s heads so all could see it. And the story is that whenever anyone was bitten, if they would lift up their eyes to the bronze snake, they would live.
From bronze in the earth
to the artisan’s touch
From something common to something sacred.
The New Testament picks up on this Old Testament story and in John 3 it says: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
From a tree
to a carpenter’s creation of a cross
From something common to something sacred.
That’s the process that is repeated over and over again in our lives as we try to live as God’s people. Our people need to be healed and served. In order for healing to come, common things (everyday, routine) must be transformed into sacred things. And through that creativity and dedication, those things become something not just beautiful to the eye, but instruments of healing for the world.
THAT, IN SHORT, IS WHAT I ENVISION FOR THIS THING WE’VE COME TO CALL “TECH”.
Technology came into our Beloved Community in an expanded way when the Pandemic became a real threat. We saw a need to try to keep on ministering to one another even when we could not be together
So, we looked at Facebook and we made short videos first of sermons, then music and visuals of the church and technology became ministry which played a vital part in keeping our family connected, hopeful, and spiritually enriched. We used some object, in and of itself morally neutral, and with the help of creative people transformed it into something God is using for healing. I think it has the potential to continue to be such a thing.
Here’s another way to look at it: I’ve continually said to you that we have to expand our notion of church. We have a fine congregation that meets here regularly in the sanctuary. You could call that CHURCH #1.
We have people meeting more and more often at the Gathering Place. That’s church too! It is a place for retreat and renewal and rest. A place for all ages. It is St. John’s CHURCH #2.
And guess what? Through the process of making sacred the instrument of technology, we have the beginnings of CHURCH #3. We have a website that is informative, current, and very attractive for the first time since I arrived. We have One Call which touches 65 people just about each week. We have Facebook which keeps the church family in touch with photos and sermons and announcements. And we have this thing Facebook Live which gives everyone inside and outside the church access to our worship service.
And I think there is an unseen congregation that I would call CHURCH #4. It is unseen because it is a potential congregation. People out there whom I believe would be a perfect fit for St. John’s. These might be people younger than, say 40, who are going to use technology to decide if St. John’s is their kind of place. They want to figure that out before they attend! We weren’t like that! We stopped in, tried a service or two, and then made up our mind about where we might want to attend. Not this generation! They will check out the churches who have their service online, look at that from the safety of their homes, and then decide. And, if there is no on-line service, they drop that church from their list of possibilities.
If we look at our church in its various congregations with our eyes to all of their needs, we begin to see our job differently. It isn’t just about what we as the attending congregation need. It is a whole lot more. It is gearing up to serve multiple congregations with various needs. We can’t do it all, but we have to discern what we CAN do and what we MUST do to be faithful to our Beloved Community and to all the people who need just such a Beloved Community as ours.
Technology certainly can’t do everything and it can be cold and impersonal. We can’t let that happen. And we can’t be everything to everyone. If we try, we will likely reach no one effectively. But we have to be discerning, courageous, willing to adapt, and always ready to care. Technology, if we are thoughtful, can do so much. Let’s embrace it and give it a chance.