Holy Hilarity Technology and Knowing God

by Rev. Doug Gray

Introductory Skit
     Get 7 volunteers from the congregation.
     Make three pairs.
     Doug:    These three pairs are going to demonstrate what technology can do to
                   relationships and our spiritual life.
     First pair will be playing cards.
     Second pair will be having a very intense, private conversation.
     The third pair will be busy reading a newspaper and a book.
     The seventh person will be Jesus trying to get their attention.
     Jesus:    “Hi! Just wanted to tell you that I love you. Could we talk for a little?
                   I would really like to spend time together.”
     After Jesus has tried with each pair, Doug will stop everything.
     Doug:    “No! No! No! I said what TECHNOLOGY can do to relationships and
                   our spiritual life. Let’s try this again.
     First pair will be playing a video game.
     Second pair will be texting.
     Third pair will be reading from electronic devices or listening to iPod.
     Again, Jesus tries to get in touch with them.

Jesus said, “Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

How could technology help us/others open the door for Jesus?

How can technology make God more real for you and your family?

Jesus says, “To the one who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:21–22)

The volunteers may be seated

The problem is not the technology, but how we use it. The problem is that we are ourselves confused about the ways technology can help and hinder us. We are also confused about the nature of worship. In our passage for today, Thomas offers three guidelines for testing whether technology is being used in a healthy way.

First, technology cannot replace intimacy. Thomas says he won’t believe unless he can touch Jesus. I think that’s an awesome way to approach God. I know Thomas gets a bad rap for doubting, but really he wants something more intimate than someone telling a story. He wants to get up close and personal with Jesus. How long have there been TV preachers? Some people predicted that the local church would go the way of the dinosaur. But the TV can’t take the place of a hug and people who know you. Some people predicted that virtual relationships online would take the place of real relationships in person. But typing on a keyboard is not the same richness of experience as being there. You can watch a recording over and over, but you can only participate in an event only once in real time. Technology cannot replace intimacy.

Second, technology is not the point. God is the point.

(At this point the technology crashes and burns. TECH:  show the explosion slide! then let the screen be black.)

For Thomas, listening to the stories other people were telling was not enough—he wanted the real thing. John Ortberg, one of the great preachers of our time, writes that worship should not be boring and not be merely amusing. The word, amuse, comes from Latin. When we muse, we reflect on and think about, we are inspired by. Amusing, then, interferes with reflecting, thinking about and being inspired. Amusement is intellectual candy, just occupying our mind. A lot of technology falls into this category, doesn’t it? Ortberg’s bigger point though is that worship fails to connect with people if it’s boring, and fails to challenge and inspire people if it’s amusing. Worship is supposed to be arresting. To help us stop, think and listen. To help us open the doors of our heart and mind to the wonder, beauty and love of Jesus Christ.

Do we make time and space to get up close and personal with Jesus? Are we a physical presence with others?