Do you think the internet has brought us closer together or driven us further apart?
I have to admit, I’m an unadulterated fan of the internet. It’s my home away from home. Friends and loved ones may be scattered over four continents, but we can keep in touch via a constant stream of text and photographs on e-mail, instant messenger, facebook, twitter and RSS. Relationship as pure information – it’s almost a substitute for the real thing. Well, almost. There’s nothing quite like meeting in person. And so if anyone I know and love passes through, there’s the obligatory trip to Starbucks (or an equivalent), the ordering of favourite drinks (mine’s a waffle melting over a mug of hot water), the hugs, the asking after mutual friends, the prayers for one another, the retelling of special occasions. And I go away feeling that the internet still can’t substitute for human flesh.
So Bert’s extended analogy of networking as a picture of the church struck a familiar chord. Are we really a collection of peer-to-peer networks linked up to some giant e-Church? No, because as he said, there’s a further dimension to our relationships. There’s God, and relating to him by his Holy Spirit transforms our horizontal relationships. Which is why when the early church broke bread together, devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and prayed, they weren’t just setting up the regular activities of the Jerusalem Ex-Fishermen’s Club. Something in their communion, teaching and prayer attracted crowds to them.
And then it occurred to me – the missing ingredient in an internet relationship was also for a long time the missing ingredient in our relationship with God. It’s what John wrote about in his gospel (1:14) – The Word became flesh. The logos, the divine wisdom, reason and order that both Jews and Greeks understood as being involved in the creation of the universe, took on the form of a human being. A Galilean carpenter’s son. A son who grew up, had friends, was tempted, reached out to touch, wept, died on a cross and invited sceptics to place their hands on him after his resurrection. Because relationship is not pure information. And so God saved the world not by sending a belief system, but his only Son.
Does the internet generation still long for incarnation – God’s Word made flesh? I think so. I think that’s how God made us all. Will they find him? I think that may require more than information, essential as that is. We aren’t Jesus, but I hope our presence, actions and community point people to the living Christ.
This was a continuation of our series for this year. You can find the notes of the message as well as the worship at the BCEC Sermon Page or listen to last week’s sermon directly – Exploring Community: BCEC.