Tuesday, October 11, 2011

iPods & iDols

Sermon from October 9, 2011
(Pentecost 17 – Year A)
Exodus 32: 1-14
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Waco, Texas

Three weeks ago, our garage door broke down, as the garage door refused to open or close.
For a few days, we worked around the malfunction by parking our cars outside of the garage.

Yet after a few days of this, I decided to have the garage door fixed.
I picked an afternoon when I did not have to be in the church office so that I could be at home all afternoon for a repairperson to come.

On my computer, I googled “Waco garage doors” and I found a repair company to call.
I explained to the repair company that I needed to have the garage door fixed, specifically on the afternoon that I would be at home.
I was assured by the company that a repairman would call me that afternoon, before 2 pm.

So on the scheduled afternoon, I waited patiently at home for the phone call.
However, two o’clock came and went.
And yet I did not hear from the garage door repair man.
At 2:15, I called the repair company back.
Yet no one answered the phone.
At 2:30, I called again.
Yet no one answered the phone.

In my frustration, I feared that my afternoon would be wasted - and that no one would ever come to repair our garage door.
So in my impatience and frustration, I googled other garage door repair companies in Waco.
I searched for someone - for anyone - to come and fix our garage door.

Finally, just when I had found someone else who said they could be at my house around 3:30, my other line beeped in.
On the other phone line was the original repairman, saying that he was on his way over.
This original repairman said to me on the phone:
“I am so glad that you did not get impatient and give up on me.”

To my chagrin, I hated to admit that I had become impatient and I had given up on him.
In my desire for instant gratification, I had searched for someone else.
In my impatience, I had searched for a replacement to fix my problem.

In the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, the Israelites are impatient.
Their leader, Moses, has disappeared up the mountain, up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments.

Moses is gone for a very, very long time.
The one true God had delivered the people from their bondage in Egypt through the Red Sea.
Yet Moses and the message of their one true God are now out of sight and out of mind.
So the Israelites become impatient.
2 o’clock comes, then 2:15, then 2:30, with no sign of a repairman, with no sign of Moses’ return.

So in the Israelite’s impatience, they do a google search for a new god to worship who will come to them right away.
And the google search comes back with instructions on how to find a replacement god - by making a golden calf.
So Moses’ assistant, Aaron, tells the people to take off all their gold jewelry.
Aaron makes a mold in the shape of a calf.
The Israelites throw their gold into the fire and the melted gold is pour into the mold.
Out of the mold comes a golden calf.
The Israelites now have a replacement god to worship.
The Israelites now have a new god that you do not have to wait on, a god that satisfies their impatience and their desire for instant gratification.

Last week, Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computer, died at a tragically young age.
I was a bit surprised by the depth of reaction to Steve Job’s death, reactions that I read on facebook wall posts.
Some of these messages portrayed Steve Jobs in almost messianic terms.
These facebook posts said things like:
“Steve Jobs changed my life.”
“Steve Jobs changed my world forever.”

In thinking about why people speak of Steve Jobs in language that I would only use to describe Jesus Christ, I began to reflect on why Steve Jobs and the age of personal computing have become our golden calf, a golden calf that even I have participated in worshiping.

Years ago, right after I was in junior high school, my best friend moved with his family to London.
To stay in touch with my friend, I would take a sheet of very thin paper, paper designed specifically for letters that were sent via airmail.
I would use this piece of paper to write my friend a letter, putting several stamps on the envelope.
I was well-prepared that it would take 7 to 10 days for that letter to arrive in London.
And I knew that it would take at least another 7 to 10 days before I could expect a response via international airmail.

Yet today, I can send an email to London - and the message arrives in just a few seconds.
And if I do not receive a response back in a few hours, I begin to wonder if something is wrong.

The age of the personal computer has affected the level of my impatience.
Technology satisfies my desire for instant gratification.

Years ago, there were people who I went to high school with, classmates with whom I was perfectly comfortable seeing only once every 10 years, at our 10, 20 & 30-year reunions.
Today, however, with the facebook newsfeed on my iphone, I can now wake up each day knowing exactly what the men and women of the Class of 1982 are eating for breakfast that morning.

Yes, it is true, Steve Jobs and personal computers have changed the world forever.
Technology has dramatically fed our desire for instant gratification and affected our impatience.

And iphones and ipods and ipads can become i-dols.
Technology can be the golden calf of our generation, a new god to worship.
Technology can create a replacement god that you do not have to wait on, a god that soothes our impatience.

Yet in my own spiritual life, the one true God, the God who delivers me from bondage, does not abide by my schedule.
The God who delivers us through Jesus Christ does not satisfy my desire for instant gratification.

Instead, in my own spiritual life, God can be infuriating, infuriating in that God makes me wait.
Yet God seems to work in my life most powerfully when I am waiting, sometimes impatiently, for the Lord to come back down from the mountain.
My times of greatest spiritual growth and formation are when I am waiting on the Lord, waiting on my God to surprise me, in the fullness of God’s time.

For it is inscribed in the wood above the altar here at St. Alban’s:
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”

And it is in the long, 40-year wanderings in the wilderness that the ancient Israelites wait and grow and trust in the Lord.
It is in the fullness of God’s time, not our own schedules, that we are surprised by grace.
It is in the fullness of God’s time that the original repairman calls to say:
“I am so glad that you did not get impatient and give up on me.”

Fellow wanderers in the wilderness:
Do not make false idols of instant gratification.
In your impatience, do not make a golden calf.

But in your impatience – wait.

No comments:

Post a Comment