It's Time For an Upgrade
An irate customer called the newspaper office loudly demanding to know why her Sunday paper wasn’t on her stoop.
“Ma’am,” said the newspaper employee, “today is Saturday...”
There was quite a long pause on the other end of the phone, followed by a ray of recognition sinking in,
“Well, now... so that’s why no one was at church today.”
This last week I received a document attached to an email that was composed in a newer version of Word than my office computer. My computer could open it, but that was all. I couldn’t save it. I couldn’t forward it or change it. Technology is changing so fast. It is hard to imagine that already I need an upgrade.
Computers are just the latest example of what happens when we don’t stay ahead of the curve and keep our access upgraded. Without the latest version of Norton, new viruses and worms can destroy our hardware. Without the latest spy ware protection, thousands of cookies can make your operating system act like it’s mired in sludge.
Of course, the new systems created theoretically can interpret the older systems but the chance of error and misunderstanding increase until the systems are operating on the same level.
Throughout history we have seen this slow march of change that causes us to reinterpret our world and our place in it. Whether it was Galileo explaining that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around or the introduction of the PDA that seems to allow the whole universe to revolve around you, with each new innovation one must either upgrade or be left in confusion. If you don’t know how to Tweet it, Digg it, Stumble it or hulu or Skype, you’re going to find yourself in need of an upgrade.
In our scripture lesson today, Nicodemus needed an upgrade. Now, from all apparent sources, Nicodemus was a good man. He was intensely faithful. He was a leader. He was intelligent and inquisitive. He heard things in Jesus’ teaching and leadership that intrigued him. But he had a fatal flaw in how his operating system was interpreting the information Jesus was presenting. It is a common operating error that all of us will face from time to time. How do we interpret new forms of input we are receiving?
You must be born (AN-o-then). The Greek word has two distinct meanings. It can mean “again” as in another time. And it can mean “from above.” Nicodemus took the information in, processed it in his inner mainframe and the result was an illogical conclusion. How can one re-enter the womb to be born again?
Your software is out-of-date, Jesus tells him (that’s a paraphrase of the original Greek). Flesh gives birth to flesh. I am speaking of spiritual realities. So Jesus tries another application. He tells Nicodemus, “the (pneuma) blows where it pleases. You hear the sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the (pneuma).” The word Pneuma can be translated as “wind” or “spirit.” So, was Jesus discussing the weather or God? Nicodemus was further confused. He was being asked to think in new ways. Jesus was asking him to evolve.
Earlier this week ABC News reported that former President Bill Clinton has been evolving. You might have heard that he is saying he now has a new understanding of marriage equality. You may remember that Clinton was the President who signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Clinton now says his opinion on marriage equality is evolving because he has seen so many gay couples raising children and doing it well. I guess Bill has gotten an upgrade since being out of office.
I listened to the national debate about Judge Sotomayor and whether an Hispanic woman brings a different perspective to the Supreme Court. What seems to be lacking in the discussion is naming this pervasive assumption that white heterosexual men are the neutral baseline from which all other groups diverge. Do we need to return to the theories of Galileo to remember that none of us is the center of the universe? Of course every judge will bring his or her life experience to the bench. Having a diversity of life experience on the nation’s highest court seems to me to be a plus. I think that this whole discussion needs an upgrade.
It seems to be the natural course of human existence to resist upgrades. Yet, our text for today calls us to consider how God has upped the ante. The universe was created out of loving energy. God so loved the world… If you are here today still wondering how God could love you exactly as you are, then it is time for an upgrade. If you are at a point in your life where you’ve made peace with who you are, but you’re still not sure about most everybody else, it’s time for an upgrade. If you’ve made it and you’re living well and you’ve attained a comfortable living so the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised are not your problem; it’s time for an upgrade. If the tapes that play in your head all contain me, my and mine, it’s time for an upgrade.
Upgrades are never easy. There are always a few bugs to work out in the transition and you might even feel like your operating system will crash before you get through it. Just keep this promise from scripture in mind. God didn’t send Jesus into the world to condemn the world (this growing in your faith and change are not some diabolical scheme to make you crazy). God sent Jesus so that our world might be made whole. That’s what the Greek means when our English Bibles translate “saving the world.” Don’t you want to be whole? Don’t you want to not have those fears or past wounds or outdated prejudice or brokenness interfering with your wellbeing? It’s time for an upgrade.
I have found that in my own life, I am ready for an upgrade when I start believing Jesus. We usually talk about it as believing in Jesus, but I think it is really simpler than that. Think about what it would mean to believe Jesus when he said:
It is more blessed to give than receive.
Go the second mile
Forgive those who trespass against you
Love God with all your heart, mind and strength
Love your neighbor as yourself
In God’s house are many rooms
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
If any of that seems too hard, let me tell you, believe Jesus. It is the way you will find your next upgrade.
www.homileticsonline.com What is a Second Life? June 2009.