Screwing Up, Getting Better: 2/5
On the second Sunday of our “Screwing Up, Getting Better” worship series, we confessed our “belief in salvation by technology.” Nobody actually believes that tech is the messiah, but we are awfully prone to coming up with technological semi-solutions that don't actually solve the problem they were intended to address, and which then become problems of their own.
For example, Greatest Generation folks wanted a sense of community and belonging, so they built church buildings, hoping to get that feeling from walls and floors. But instead they (and their descendants) got deferred maintenance, balloon notes, property committees, and arguments about the color of the carpet. The building was a technological “solution” to the problem of community formation.
In Exodus 14, the narration of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt through the Red Sea, the word “chariot” is used 16 times. The intense repetition clues us in that Pharaoh’s technology is getting the best of him. Indeed, it’s the chariot axles and wheels that get bogged down in the mud at the bottom of the Red Sea and cause the demise of the army. You can picture Pharaoh screaming at his troops, “Go, go, go, go!” because that’s what you do when you’ve got lots of tech – you use it, fast and hard, to get what you want. Until it’s drowning you.
By contrast, in the same story God is exhorting the Israelites to “Keep still, and watch.” God has no tech – only the elements of creation: fire and cloud, land and sea, dark and light. “Keep still and watch,” God says to the pursued people of God, while Pharaoh screams “GO!”
We’re weirdly comfortable, though, in Pharaoh’s economy. It’s much harder to “Keep still and watch.” We have lots of technological “help” in our lives that requires our attention, our energy, our “Go, go, go!” We mediate even our relationships with people and with God through layers and layers of tech – not only through our phones, but there it is.
We suggest that Sabbath observance, Commandment Numero Quatro in the Big Ten from Exodus 20, is God’s insistence that we “Keep still and watch,” trusting that God and God’s creation will give us everything we need. Sabbath practice is about disengaging from all the technology and work and “Go!” that drives us all the other days of the week.
So on Sunday last, we turned out all the lights, checked our phones at the door, turned off the projector and screen, ditched the microphones, and relied on our voices alone – along with the simplicity of bread and cup – to create our worship of God. We kept still. We watched. We imposed a little Sabbath disengagement, just for a little while. Just to see how it felt.
It felt good.
And there was no recording, because #notech.