Thursday, April 26, 2018

Cyber Christianity: Bane and Blessing

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  
1 John 4:7-9

Had it not been for the invention of the printing press the Reformation would never have happened.  Specifically, Martin Luther's followers made extensive use of this new piece of technology and spread the new understanding of the Gospel through its use.  The Bible was printed and placed in the hands of the people.  The Church was transformed by this explosion of information now available to the masses.

We live in a similar day.  That you are  reading this via the internet is a marvel.  It is a blessing.  But it could also be our undoing as Christians.

A blessing.  Our small congregation of Peace Lutheran Church has a few dozen people in worship on Sunday mornings.  But by posting our sermons on the internet through Facebook hundreds more are able to read, and hear the Word.  Each one is in a unique situation.  Some are deeply faithful members of their own congregations and simply enjoy yet another opportunity to hear God's Word.  Others may have no congregation that they belong to, but find the internet a welcome place to  connect with the Body of Christ.  

Our belief is that when we engage in God's Word, we encounter Christ, and that whether one sits in the pew Sunday morning, or reads about Jesus Tuesday evening on Facebook, the Holy Spirit is at work.  The blessing of the internet is that Jesus and the Holy Spirit can work through it in the same way they work through the printed or spoken word.  It is truly a blessing.

One of the things I believe that is especially good about it is that it gives us the opportunity to share our faith without intruding on people's private lives.  No interrupting.  No unwelcome knocking on doors.  And if people don't want to take the time to read a post on Facebook they can simply scroll on by.  But many do read.  Many do engage.  You have!

But there is one glaring weakness to this technology, and the prospect of a cyber-Christianity emerging.  It's hard to love online.  It's easy to connect to many thousands of people online, but it is hard to truly love.

Can we come to know God, apart from the experience of love?  And can we love one another as Christ first loved us via Facebook or a blog post?

I'm Pastor Dave Olson, and have been posting on behalf of Peace Lutheran Church in Otis Orchards for over a year now.  I've thoroughly enjoyed the feedback I've received.  But you know what I miss?  I miss getting to know you in the process.

I'd love to sit down over a cup of coffee and hear about your faith and your journey in life.  I love to have the opportunity to get to know you, personally.  And in the Spirit of the reading from 1 John above, I'd love to be able to love you in Christ's name for that is how we both come to know God.

If the internet and social media can help to connect people with the love of God it is a wonderful blessing.  If it becomes a substitute for real encounters with other human beings, real love, and real knowledge of God that comes through loving-- then it will be a bane for us.  

And yet there is so much to gain through this technology.  It is part of our life today.  And I believe that it can be used to connect with the Body of Christ and the love of God.

Here's a bold invitation to those of you who've read this far.  I'll gladly buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks or Jack & the Bean Shop in Otis Orchards.  I'd love to do so, and to learn about you and to share with one another our faith, our questions, and our hopes.  Just message me and I'll contact you and set up a time.

If hundreds of you take me up on that offer, well, I'll figure out a way of dealing with it.  But I offer this in all sincerity and in the name of Jesus.  

Pastor Dave

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