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WWJT? Where Would Jesus Text? Being iPresent in an iElsewhere world.
August 6, 2017
In his Epistle, St Peter writes this to Christians...
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a PECULIAR people; so that you might SHOW FORTH the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
Being PECULIAR is never easy. In fact, most of us spend much of our lives trying NOT to be peculiar, trying to FIT IN. To BE-LIKE in order to BE-LONG.
STORY: Alex our manager who couldn’t attend the final meet of the season in which we shaved our heads. He had to stay home, but so BADLY did he want to BE LIKE US so as to BELONG WITH US.
Being peculiar is NOT EASY. The bible IN FACT is A STORY about the many ways the people of God REJECT God’s call to BE DIFFERENT.
PREFERRING instead to BE LIKE THE NATIONS AROUND THEM. They were ABSOLUTELY DETERMINED to BE ‘NORMAL.’
It’s IRONIC because, the requirement by God to BE DIFFERENT was NOT a call to be EMBARRASSINGLY DIFFERENT, but A CALL to be COMPELLINGLY DIFFERENT. To be OUTSTANDING.
It’s a call to live more CHARITABLY, more COURAGEOUSLY and more HEROICALLY than WE would OTHERWISE LIVE.
And yet THE DESIRE TO BE ‘NORMAL’ persisted on into the New Testament…
The EARLY CHUCH, at MANY POINTS, preferred to be ‘NORMAL’ rather than ‘OUTSTANDING’ especially with regard to an idea TAUGHT in many ELITE CIRCLES.
It was AN IDEA that had ALL SORTS of BEHAVIORAL IMPLICATIONS.
The idea was called: 'Gnosticism.'
Gnostics INSISTED, among other things, that the physical/material world was INHERENTLY BASE and as such, UN-IMPORTANT.
However, THE spiritual/philosophical world was OF ULTIMATE IMPORTANCE.
Consequently, MANY Gnostics were known for living LICENTIOUS, SELF INDULGENT lives, BEING GOVERNED BY their PHYSICAL APPETITES.
Because, after all, the BODY, made of MATTER, didn’t much MATTER…… either to the ENLIGHTENED or their gods.
And it was Into that GNOSTIC MIX that Christianity ARRIVED, a religion considered RADICAL because of its INSISTENCE that the MATERIAL/PHYSICAL realm was IN FACT, MADE BY GOD God and PRONOUCED ‘GOOD.’
AND SO, one’s PHYSICAL body was NO LESS IMPORTANT or SACRED, than one’s soul.
The PHYSICAL was TO BE JUST AS REVERED as the SPIRITUAL.
That’s why St John caused much Gnostic CONSTERNATION when he wrote: ‘ And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
That’s a NICE HISTORY LESSON, Greg, but WHAT’S IT GOT TO DO with us here in Malvern, in 2017?
You see, there is ANOTHER KIND of Gnosticism at work today that is AS SUBTLE as it is POPULAR.
In fact, it’s being PRACTICED (unknowingly) by almost ALL of us.
It’s called: iGNOSTICISM.
Or, perhaps better, TECHNO-GNOSTICISM.
And here is WHAT IT SAYS : The physical world, complete with its many SETTINGS and occupied by COUNTLESS PHYSICAL BODIES, (i.e. OTHER PEOPLE,) doesn’t much matter. Is of no GREAT CONSEQUENCE.
Here is HOW it WORKS: If find myself OCCUPYING a PHYSICAL SETTING, or SCENE, that I DEEM UNPLEASANT, why, with a CLICK of my iPhone or my Galaxy, I can simply ESCAPE IT in favor of a VIRTUAL one.
Why endure an unpleasant MATERIAL WORLD when I can INSTANTANEOUSLY construct A VIRTUAL WORLD of my OWN choosing?
After all, OMNIPRESENCE is easier than ACTUAL presence.
I don’t like the people I am with waiting at the airport? Why, I can depart by CONSTRUCTING MY OWN VIRTUAL COMMUNITY by starting a GROUP TEXT with ‘MY FAVES.’
Because being OMNIPRESENT is MORE FUN than BEING ACTUALLY present.
If I don't wanna BE BOTHERED by my FELLOW PASSENGERS while riding on THE BUS or while on my TREAD MILL at Planet Fitness… I can simply put in my ear buds and enter the VIRTUAL iTunes realm IN WHICH I CONTROL all THAT IS HEARD.
Because being OMNIPRESENT is COOLER than BEING ACTUALLY present.
Find myself bored at the beach? I can grab my galaxy or iPhone n can INSTANTLY TRANSPORT myself to that VIRTUAL Realm called Facebook or Instagram which LIMITS my EXPOSURE TO those I ‘LIKE.’
Everyone knows that being OMNIPRESENT is MORE FUN than BEING ACTUALLY present.
I have SOME BUSINESS that needs to be TAKEN CARE OF but ‘don't have much time?’ Well, I can SIMPLY ‘TELL SIRI’ to CALL ‘my good Buddy, Sam’ so that I CAN CONVERSE with Sam DURING MY 30 minute WORKOUT on the ELIPTICAL at the YMCA.
NOTE: The difference here is not that I am ESCAPING the ACTUAL WORLD but that I am FORCING those in the ACTUAL WORLD to ENTER MY VIRTUAL WORLD. (much to the chagrin of those around me).
It’s a no brainer. Being OMNIPRESENT is MORE PRODUCTIVE than being ACTUALLY PRESENT.
I am an introvert and DON’T LIKE TO LOOK AT, let alone SPEAK TO, strangers? No problem. I can log ONTO Twitter as I sit in the waiting room of my DENTIST’S OFFICE and APPLAUD the snarky COMMENTS made by those who BY AND LARGE, AGREE WITH ME.
Everyone knows that being OMNIPRESENT is MORE ENTERTAINING than being ACTUALLY PRESENT.
On and on I could go….
Jesus once told, in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel, HARD HITTING PARABLE about sheep and goats that went like this:
But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
And so I ask: What was the CENTRAL DIFFERENCE between the Sheep and the Goats?
What DISTINGUISHED ONE from ANOTHER?
The Answer: SIGHT!
The GOATS were BLIND to the ACTUAL PEOPLE around them and in the process were BLIND to JESUS.
To not SEE OTHERS is to NOT SEE JESUS.
‘Lord, WE DIDN’T SEE YOU! When were you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison?!
To which JESUS EFFECTIVELY RESPONDS: ‘I was THERE….IN THOSE around you, whom you DIDN’T SEE.’
And THAT’S THE PROBLEM with iGnosticism: It BLINDS US to THE PRESENCE OF OUR ACTUAL, FLESH & BLOOD, EMBODIED NEIGHBORS (and Jesus himself) because we are no longer THERE!
Just as the Gnostics cast aside any INTEREST IN/CONFERN FOR their physical/material bodies, so we iGnostics have cast aside any INTEREST IN/CONCERN FOR the actual, physical/material setting in which we find ourselves (REPEAT) .
By CONTRAST, Jesus METICULOUSLY NOTICES real, FLESH & BLOOD PEOPLE who are RENDERED INVISIBLE by those who HABITUALLY PASSED THEM BY even BEFORE SmartPhones were invented!
To CONCLUDE…. you MAY BE ASKING: ‘What does that ACTUALLY mean, Greg?’ What SPECIFICALLY ARE YOU asking us to consider?’
I am asking US to CONSIDER doing something as SIMPLE as it is DIFFICULT.
With the EXCEPTION of (RARE) emergencies, I am asking US to PUT AWAY OUR iPHONES or GALAXIES in PUBLIC settings….SETTINGS in WHICH OTHERS are PRESENT so that we might be FULLY PRESENT to them.
I am asking US to say ‘NO’ to OMNIPRESENCE and ‘YES’ to ACTUAL PRESENCE.
I am asking us to be willing to FULLY OCCUPY the ACTUAL SCENE to which God has ASSIGNED US, even when it’s TEMPTING TO DISCARD IT, and ESCAPE to a VIRTUAL ALTERNATIVE.
I will conclude with a BRIEF STORY, that I may have told before, about a CATHOLIC WOMAN I met who is ALSO from CHICAGO, who had stage 4 cancer at the hospital.
I will call her MARY, who taught ME A LOT ABOUT being FULLY PRESENT, the scene to which God has ASSIGNED us.
STORY: May I pray for you?
Because MARY wanted to be FULLY PRESENT in every scene to which God has ASSIGNED HER in order that she might transform that scene INTO A SANCTUARY OF WORSHIP.
Mary teaches us that scenes are NOT TO BE ESCAPED, but TRANSFORMED.
She SO MUCH SO that when she FINALLY ENTERS THE ETERNAL SANCTUARY of her SAVIOR, it will be a MODEST transition.
May we PUT DOWN our SmartPhones, go and DO LIKEWISE.