Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Spiritual Updating…

It could just be a PC thing. But if so, all we PC users know the drill. Every week or several, a box pops up in our screen’s bottom right and tells us that we need critical updates to our software, just recently released. Within a few minutes, these updates have downloaded and been installed in our computer system. Once we’ve shut down and booted back up, they take effect. We’re up-to-date.

I suspect most of those updates are simple bug fixes, not monumental but helpful for maintaining good working order. Occasionally, however, a complete transformation of the system takes place and whatever program it affects feels totally different. It gets a new number, even. 2.0. Or in the case of my recent iTunes update, 11.1.0 or something. The point is updating one’s software is now a “regular thing” in the life of computing types.

Ideally, something of that kind happens every Sunday when we read and interpret scripture in worship. Ancient texts mix with contemporary concerns and ideas, guiding our lives better for the week to come. I hope you’ve experienced a sermon or song before where that “updating” brought about grand transformation. You suddenly saw an old story in new light and were inspired to make great changes for grace in the way you lived. More often, though, the updates are simple; a comforting insight, a challenging thought. That’s a good thing, to my mind. We’d be rather unstable if we were always searching for the “great transformation”, the newest “new thing” that will upend our ideas completely, the five flawless steps for pleasing God.

The thing is, our church tradition is vast. Be honest- Have you actually read the entire Bible?! Certain parables and Christmas stories, I’m sure you’ve encountered. But extra communion for those who can quote to me from Jude! We could attend church weekly for a whole decade and never download some scriptures, let alone encounter ‘updates’. Part of being a good Christian is continual exploration, and the flexibility that requires.

Then, we have stories we remember vaguely but rarely come back around to for renewal. In particular, I’m thinking of childhood Sunday School stories, some which have become part of our culture’s consciousness. We know the basic plots, we think. At least, we recognize the names. But, speaking personally, many reside in memory more as cartoons and cheesy songs than honest-to-goodness guides for daily living. Eve and the Apple. Noah’s Flood. Daniel in the Lion’s Den. When’s the last time you thought to read these for inspiration? Does Christ Walking on Water have a 2.0?!

Well, this fall, we’re going to answer that question, hopefully in the affirmative! In both worship and Sunday School (adult and youth), we’ll reengage the old, familiar-ish stories. Turns out, many hold profoundly enduring lessons about how to live well, how to honor God, where God hopes we’ll spend our time and resources, what truly matters for building God’s Kingdom. At least, that’s my perspective, which I intend to share with you in coming weeks, all the way through Thanksgiving and Advent, in fact. Call is Sunday School 2.0: Updating old stories for modern life.

And here’s something else- though we’ve usually turned to these stories for teaching the basic plots of the Bible, the feel-good tales readymade for coloring books and children’s sermons, they’ve lasted for so long because, I’m convinced, they update with remarkable freshness. For example, has it occurred to you that Eve and the Apple is an indictment of sexism? Maybe the original author(s) didn’t see it that way, but I do, and I’ll you why…this Sunday. Other contemporary issues that we struggle with find relevance here too- terrorism and war, sexuality, technological change, concerns about debt, science v. religion, race relations. We’ll tackle all of that and more! Get ready for an interesting fall, I hope. After all, if we’re never updating, we’re just using the same old system, all the time. And where’s the fun, or grace, in that…! See you in church.

Grace and Peace,


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