Don’t Just Stand There, Say Something
Isaiah 25:1-9, Psalm 23, Philippians 4:1-9, Matthew 22:1-14
In this day and age it seems people are placing themselves more in the role of observer, or amateur reporter than active living participant in this amazing world we have been placed. And, it is an amazing and wonderful world. If we could all just put our electronic devices down, and quit recording every aspect of our life, or quit being “informed” all of the time maybe we would enjoy this beautiful gift a little more. And, yes I am still ranting, but not as bad as a week ago.
Last week I personally signed off of social media for good. Granted, the church still has a Facebook page, and I still post my sermons via that platform; however, I no longer log on. I have done this in the past especially when we go on vacation because I actually want to experience vacation. I mean the whole reason of vacation is to vacate your life and recharge your batteries, so why would I want to take everyone along with me even if it is only via social media? It makes no sense. Really, do you want to see what I am drinking or eating every minute of the day? When it is cold and wet here do you really want me to rub it in by snapping shots of me laying out in the sun? Or, how about a snap of me drinking strawberry daiquiris while you’re stuck at the drive thru of Starbucks behind a Ford Aerostar with seven kids and four adults all ordering blended drinks and four of the drinks aren’t quite right? I mean I could do that, but it would be just a little mean. And, just so you know I don’t want to see pictures of you laying out in the sun drinking daiquiris while I am stuck behind that same Ford Aerostar at the same Starbuck’s drive thru.
No, the real reason I signed off of social media is because it has morphed into something it was never intended to be and has become the means of us becoming a voyeuristic society. Instead of being active participants in our family, community, country, the world around us we are now watchers and recorders. Everyone has become a news camera person filming everything and not participating. If there is an emergency occurring, or someone is being abused people reach for their phones and not their morals. Somehow downloading an event on our Facebook page has taken precedence over stepping up and saying knock it off. Now, don’t tell me look at what happened in Portland on the Max when people stepped up, they died. I know they died, but where would we be today if people hadn’t stepped up? Where would we be today if instead of crossing the lines of segregation in the South Martin Luther King just pulled out his i-phone and recorded the act of segregation? What if the disciples just posted the crucifixion on their Facebook page with a sad emoji?
Facebook was intended for people to share their lives with other friends. It was intended to be a means to connect people, who otherwise would never be connected. Twitter was to be a means in which people shared thoughts, asked questions, and were provocative in a fun and non-threatening way. Now? Social media is used to spurn lies, deceit, and the primary means extreme groups on both the right and left use to further divide us. It doesn’t matter if what they share and distribute is the truth because they know we won’t take the time to check just as long as what they post resonates with our opinions. I had to ask myself why would I continue to be a part of a social experiment that is so destructive not only to my values and beliefs, but to my country?
The overriding impetus for signing off is because I find the whole thing so unfaithful and counterproductive to being a Christian. Not only to being a Christian, but for any person of faith, and especially a person of faith within the Judeo-Christian traditions. God wants to be in relationship with us, and God wants us to be in relationship with one another. God doesn’t want to be in pseudo-relationship with us through a hand held device, but rather in an honest to goodness one on one relationship.
In reading our Old Testament and Gospel lessons today they sound so judgmental. I mean we have God destroying whole groups of people and we have Jesus sending people to outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. On the whole it doesn’t sound like the kind of God that I would want to have a relationship with. Once again we’re called to understand the whole scope of scripture and not just the passages that we have before us.
In Isaiah we have the prophet speaking to a nation of people who are living in Babylon and trying to figure out if the God of Israel is actually all that wonderful. For you see the Babylonians have destroyed Israel, they have leveled the Temple and have sent the vast majority of Israelites to live in exile. The relationship between God and God’s people has hit rock bottom and the prophet Isaiah is trying to project the big picture of God’s plan for the Hebrews and the world. What feels like judgment is actually God’s grace and the people are called to trust. Kind of hard to trust when your world has literally been destroyed, but that is what Isaiah is proclaiming. The prophet is exhorting the people to continue in relationship with God and trust that it will all workout in the end.
Jesus’ parable is a continuation of Isaiah’s message. On the surface of things it appears that the parable is quite judgmental and unforgiving, but actually it is amazingly gracious. The parable says there is a king whose son is getting married and all the important people, the one’s you would expect to be invited to a king’s son’s wedding, have rejected the invitation. Not only once were they invited, but twice, and each time the invitation was either ignored or made light of. God doesn’t appreciate being ignored, and the only thing worse than being ignored is being made light of. Because of the “important” people’s response God invites everyone to join the party, both the good and the evil. I love that part! I mean now we are talking a party. Who would want to party with a bunch of “important” people anyway? So, with all this grace flying around what is up with the King picking on the guy without the proper wedding attire? It just seems so random and unfair. Some people want to focus on the attire and add aspects to the parable that are not in play. For instance, some people add that there was wedding attire provided and the guy just didn’t change, and then they extrapolate that the attire is repentance and we need to turn. I am not going there, not simply because I think it’s wrong, but because the text doesn’t go there. So, what does the text say?
The text says that the guest was speechless. Speechless? God doesn’t want speechless God wants relationship. If God wanted speechless he would have stuck with the fuddy duddys that ignored his invitation. No! Say something! Say anything! Be engaged, be a part of the party. Don’t just stand there say something. God wants us to be in relationship even if it’s a bad relationship. Not talking, being speechless, well you might as well pull out your cell phone and scroll through the different posts for the day. From the beginning God has wanted a relationship with us and God has wanted us to be in relationship with one another. The whole reason God created this beautiful world was to share it with us and when you read the bible from Adam and Eve through Jesus Christ the only time we run into trouble is when we fall out of relationship with God and with each other.
And God isn’t expecting perfection. God knows there will be times that we want to rant and rave and tell him off. Look at God’s relationship with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and his messed up family, Moses, Judges, David, Solomon, and I can go on and on. There are times that Moses has a right full on argument with God and God listens. God wants us to engage with him and each other. Just as God didn’t want his people to follow other god’s he doesn’t want us to become so “I” centered that we fail to engage with Him and the world around us.
The new god in our culture is social media. I know I am sounding like a broken record, but I believe it to my core. It is being used not to unite us, but to divide us. I know that a lot of you will say “I only go on there to look at picture of my loved ones.” Maybe that is true, but it is not all that you are seeing. I know it is crazy of me to believe that you’ll walk away 100% from Facebook or twitter, and I just acknowledged that I can’t. However, I want you to do your own experiment. Paul in Philippians writes, “Finally, beloved whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Are you finding these things on social media? Are we able to keep these things at the forefront of our lives when we are bombarded with divisive and distorted information? No. So, try it for a week. Walk away from social media for one week and see if you find yourself more engaged with real people and real life and if your life becomes richer. Give it a go. What can it hurt? Maybe, just maybe it will make us all better friends, family members, and children of God.