What could it look like in your neighbourhood?
A few years ago while at mall in Winnipeg I come across two people walking together at a normal pace texting. It was an odd scene. At the time I couldn’t really place what was odd about it, other than the potential for a super awkward pedestrian collision. I scurried out-of-the-way completely flabbergasted. Then it occurred to me.
They were completely disconnected. Disconnected from each other. Disconnected from the potential awkward mall collision. Disconnected from all that was around them.
Technology has afforded us the beautiful opportunity to connect. There is no doubt that the texting mall walkers were connecting with people important to them. Cell phones, tablets, and laptops have given us the ultimate in mobile connection. I text my wife, send updates to youth group facebook page, check hockey scores and check email all with my mobile device. Texting, facebooking, tweeting, emailing at the touch of a screen at any moment, in almost any place, thanks to my portable 4G Android device.
I remember listening a Charles Adler radio show in memory of Steve Jobs. There was plenty of discussion and review on his impact on the world. Much of the conversation revolved around the cultural impact of the ipod, ipad, and iphone. 45 minutes into the conversation, a gentlemen called ranting about the use of technology by younger generations and how ‘they’ were on their ‘phones and things’ all the time completely oblivious to the world around them. His rant lasted a while until the host finally cut him off. Adlers response has stuck with me. It went something like this; “…given the grand scope of human history, we could say this mobile technology has not been on the map for a very long time. It’s almost like we don’t fully yet understand the implications of its use.” Adler continued on to call it ‘technology etiquette.’ It is almost as if we are learning about the implications of connecting so readily. As a culture we have not yet discovered the proper way in which to use this technology.
Let’s think a little bit about what incarnation means. Incarnational ministry is a practice of presence. Being present with God, as a participant with God in that particular time and place. A divine shout out to the flesh and blood presence of God here on earth. It is the ministry of the moment.
If incarnation and being present in the place and space in which we find ourselves is important then paying attention to that which disconnects us from our present realities is even more important. It becomes a practice of self-discipline in the name of discipleship. It could be a key in understanding this ‘technology etiquette.’ In a youth group I was part of we created a disconnect box. Every student would put their cell phone or other mobile device in the disconnect box. It wasn’t born out of a need to pry them away from their devices. It was a statement to one another that these two hours together are important. They are divine, and they deserve our immediate attention. It was a ministry of incarnation. It was an opportunity to teach our students to be present with one another, and with God… no distractions.
It is quite strange to think of these devices that hold so power to connect actually have just as much, if not more, power to disconnect us from our present reality. But it is a learning process. I am certainly as guilty as anyone. A technology addict myself, I have had gentle reminders from my wife and even my two year old son to put down my phone. May we learn to disconnect so we can indeed connect.
Previous Post: Eleven: “Facebook Spirituality?” Compelled to Connect Pt 2
I’m not much of a poetry lover, but this ranks up there as one of my favourites. It’s by a guy named Taylor Mali, a teacher turned beat poet in New York City. It’s one of those artistic literary explosions that, you know, gets you, like, thinking, you know?
Totally like whatever, you know?
By Taylor Mali
In case you hadn’t noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you’re talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you’re saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)’s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions? You know?
Declarative sentences – so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not –
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don’t think I’m uncool just because I’ve noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It’s like what I’ve heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I’m just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?
What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we’ve just gotten to the point where it’s just, like . . .
And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we’ve become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!
I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.
Be inspired to live a life that speaks to the truths in which you believe. Be inspired to live a life that seeks after the heart of Jesus, because in that divine place you will find a story much bigger than yourself. To follow Jesus and live in that story is to participate in a truth that questions the authority and assumptions that govern this world. It becomes a bit of a mess when the redemptive love of God collides with the authority of our world, but the journey is worth it. When you are right in the middle of it, always remember in whom your heart rests.
The word incarnate means “being embodied” and in theological speak it refers to the miraculous reality that God became human in the saving life of Jesus Christ. Some people even came up with the Doctrine of Incarnation. Eugene Peterson in his contemporary translation of the bible entitled ‘the message” captures this reality well in the book of John.
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighbourhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.
John 1:15 (the message)
God moved into the world of 1st century Palestine and proceeded to knock the socks off the status quo by talking about a heavenly and divine reality called the “Kingdom of God.” Jesus, the incarnation of God then represented the collision between this heavenly reality and the laws, religiosity, political climate, and socio-economic reality of 1st century Palestine.
The result is the messy encounters of heaven colliding with a disconnected, sinful humanity found in the gospel story. Jesus didn’t just talk about the Kingdom of God, he was God embodied on earth and the actions of Jesus embody this hope of redemption and reconnection that we find in the God in heaven. Within all this, God’s presence is central. God’s presence on earth, God’s presence in Jesus, and God’s presence via the Holy Spirit in us here today.
Acts chapter 2 is a favourite of mine. Many call it the birth of the church as we know it. A community gathered, receiving the spirit of God, the same spirit of Jesus, and a member of this dynamic active Trinitarian God. In Acts 2, it was unifying, inspiring, empowering, and provided a great place for a community of believers to embark on a journey, imperfectly mind you, of loving God and loving neighbour. Here in 2011 we get the same Spirit that Jesus had. We get the same Holy Spirit that descended upon the gathered community of Acts at Pentecost. We don’t only get a portion of it. It’s not like we get the short end of the Holy Spirit stick. We have the opportunity to fully receive the Holy Spirit within us and join with God in the activities of this world. One way we join with God is by embodying the message by the Holy Spirit that is present within and around us.
Where you are present matters. Where you live and how you engage your neighbour matters because as a believer in Christ you are, in all your brokenness, transparently (hopefully, nobody is perfect) embodying the message of a Trinitarian God. For Anabaptists, that means grounded in community (presence in community is vitally important, can’t get into it on this post, but read up on it here) we embody a gospel centred around peace, justice, discipleship etc… That means where we are present and collide with the culture around us that does not represent those principles. The implications bring us face to face with a militaristic NHL hockey team logo, or the 3rd world living conditions in Northern Manitoba where there is apparently not enough fresh water to go around, or the gangs, drugs, and prostitution of the North and West End’s of Winnipeg. We as people who embody a message of God’s love must with apostolic zeal and creativity bring the heart of the Anabaptist message out in the flesh and blood. In some cases this may take a reimagining, but not deviating from, some of the more traditional Mennonite Anabaptist practices and focus on asking what Anabaptism looks like as it engages 2011 (that was quite the ambitious line, I know, I am working on a way to address quite significantly in the future, it’s also a shout out to the Naked Anabaptist).
What does the collision between Jesus centred, shalom seekin’, incarnated Anabapism and the dominate culture around us look like? I am beginning to think that we cannot even begin to ask that question unless we are willing to understand the true implications of incarnation and embodying the message of a loving and active God.
(for other posts in this series)
This is worth checking out. Shane Hipps former pastor at Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale Arizona and current teaching pastor at Mars Hill in Grand Rapids Michigan talking about the influence of technology on our faith and on becoming a medium for God’s love and action in the world. Good stuff. Shout out to Kurt Willems for posting this over at pangea blog. It’s worth the 20+ minutes for sure…