Pastor’s Friday Comments (02.08.19)

In a recent article by a neurologist, I learned about an incredibly prescient story written in 1909 by E. M. Forster titled “The Machine Stops.” Forster imagines a future where people live underground in isolated cells, never seeing one another and communicating only by audio and visual devices. In this world, original thought and direct observation are discouraged — “Beware of first-hand ideas!” people are told. Humanity has been overtaken by “the Machine,” which provides all comforts and meets all needs — except the need for human contact.

In the story a young man pleads with his mother through technology that could be an accurate description of Skype: “I want to see you not through the Machine…. I want to speak to you not through the wearisome Machine.”

His mother is absorbed in her hectic, meaningless life. He laments, “We have lost the sense of space…. We have lost a part of ourselves…. Cannot you see…that it is we that are dying, and that down here the only thing that really lives is the Machine?”

I will resist the urge to take this vision of our age from over a century ago as the basis for another rant against the outsized role that technology and social media take in our lives and the way our heavy dependence upon them may either leave little time or energy for genuine social interaction or serve as a substitute for it. Instead, I’ll just point out that our active participation in congregational life can at least dilute the damage. Life in the church is a face-to-face experience.

Corporate worship is a collective seeking of the presence of God. We pray next to each other, sing side by side, listen together to a message, and visit with each other before and after worship. Particularly in a small church like ours, but possibly in any church, there is time and opportunity to do more than simply greet one another. We can check in at a deep level and resolve to help each other whenever needed.

In our Bible study classes each member brings her or his unique perspective to the examination of a scripture passage. Illustrations from daily life abound as people share their observations and as they find ways to apply biblical truths to their lives. You can’t get this experience from reading or studying by yourself.

As we engage in missions and ministry in the community and around the world, we get to work side by side both with members and with others. You might be surprised what you can learn about one another when you take breaks from hard work.

And there is so much more to be gained by coming together to add people to the prayer list and to lift people’s concerns up to God than you could ever have through just reading about problems off a sheet.

When it comes to participating in church, it is literally impossible to phone it in. You’ve got to be here. So put down the phone, turn off your devices, pull out your earphones and join us at church. You’ll be glad you did.