Adapted from a sermon

Delivered January 2, 2000

First Congregational Church

John 1: 1-18

 

A Sermon for the New Millennium

            “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning…” (John 1:1-2)

            “No,” says a friend of mine, “In the beginning was WordStar! – remember the big five and a half inch floppy disks, the ones that came before the three and a half inch disks?  Those were WordStar disks!”

            Yes, I remember.  But today is it is Word, Microsoft Word. In the beginning was WordStar, then Word, and now, the Web… And it is with God. The Web is NOT God, but with God – a light that shines in the darkness.

            This is not meant to be as sacrilegious. When I was invited to speak to you on the first Sunday of the New Millennium, there was no question that my remarks should center on this once in a thousand years observance.  When I reviewed the Scriptures for today and found John 1:1-18, I knew I had my topic.  The feared Y2K bug and threats of terrorism only deepened my conviction.

            The Millennium Year can be a time to review where we’ve been and where we’re going – and to reflect on the fact that the role of the computer in that journey will not diminish.  Some among us looked forward to the total collapse of our computers and our lifestyles that have come to depend upon that technology, when the clock struck midnight, December 31, 1999.  They predicted we would be catapulted back in time, back before the discovery of electricity, back before the Industrial Revolution, back before the discovery of the plow, back to when the first man and woman peeked out of their cave and looked upon a world. That world would now be devastated by the ravages of a former Soviet Union nuclear power plant gone bad. 

            It didn’t happen.  The ATM machines at the banks still produced money – with the correct date on the withdrawal slip.  The lights stayed on.  The computers functioned.  The prison doors stayed shut. The planes stayed in the air. The terrorists stayed home.  And the people around the world cheered, and drummed, and danced, sent up prayers to their gods, hugged their children, and finally fell to sleep early the next morning.  A bright, clear, cold morning it was for us – absolutely beautiful.

            God is in His/Her Heaven, and we survived the Time Warp!

            What did it mean?  What was the paranoia all about?  Technology and science are gifts from God.  We have no reason to turn our backs upon these gifts.

            “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another,” and we will continue to do so.  Appreciation and wise use of the gift is the answer, not rejection.

            I love my computer.  I spend hours at my computer.  I find material that offends me and material that inspires me on my computer.  One inspirational site is The First Church of Cyberspace at www.godweb.org.  That’s www – dot --Godweb (one word)—dot -- org. The First Church of Cyberspace, you will find, is dedicated to building a church for the New Millennium – and has been for several years. The webmaster is a respected Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Charles Henderson.  Henderson is pastor of Central Presbyterian Church, Montclair, New Jersey.

            The site is chucked full of sacred music, art, spoofs, sermons, thought-provoking essays, and incredible computer-graphics. 

            Exploring the development of faith in the computerized, information age, Henderson visualizes a world in its youth, a world growing into adolescence, and a world growing into maturity.  The mature Christian in such a world does not turn his or her back on change and growth – the mature, adult Christian grows with the world around him or her.

            And what of the so-called mature Christian’s God?  Henderson shares comments by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., comments worth reviewing as we enter this New Millennium – with all our computers churning effectively and efficiently.

             The attempt to substitute a human-centered universe for a God-centered universe is not new, King reminds us.  It had its modern beginnings in the Renaissance and subsequently in the Age of Reason, when some people came to feel that God was an unnecessary... no longer relevant.  The laboratory began to replace the church, and the scientist became a substitute for the prophet.  Not a few persons were found singing a new anthem, “Glory to Man in the highest!  For Man is the master of all things.”

            Eh, not so fast, King suggests.  Great as we might think we are, God is just a bit greater.  Before we are consumed too greatly by our own human arrogance at our own great accomplishments, let us take a broader look at the universe. Let’s really take a look at it and our place within it.  Our rockets are fast. But when we behold the expanse of outer space we must affirm anew that we are but small specks in the Cosmic Mind.

            In this universe, adversity can assail us with hurricane force. Are we nothing but electrical blips in the wind?  Can an electrical blip experience this much pain, this much fear? Blip on the computer screen of time or not, we hurt, we agonize.

            Our God is compassionate in our confusion. We may be a blip, but we are each individually a precious blip. God comes to us, if we have those eyes to see and ears to hear. Faced with our own Real Time existence, we can draw upon our God-given interior resources to confront the trials and difficulties of life.  Our scientists and psychologists can’t explain this experience of God, but the lucky ones among us know about it first hand.

            Our God and our faith in our God are able to give us an inner equilibrium to stand tall amid the trails and burdens of life.  God is able to provide inner peace amid outer storms.  This inner stability of faith is Christ’s chief legacy to his disciples.  He offers neither material resources nor a magical formula that exempts us from suffering and persecution, but he brings an imperishable gift:  “Peace I leave you.”  This is the peace which surpasses all human understanding.

            At times we may feel that we do not need God, Martin Luther King suggests, but on the day when the storms of disappointment rage, the winds of disaster blow, and the tidal waves of grief beat against our lives, if we do not have a deep and patient faith our emotional lives will be ripped to shreds. 

            It is faith in God, with a capital G, which we must rediscover for this new millennium.  Our computers and airplanes and nuclear power plants, and ATM machines are part of life, but not the Point of Life.  They will be there.  They will continue to be there today, next week, and for the foreseeable future.  We will not find God, please or displease God, or in any way interact with God by forswearing these contraptions.

            Where do we interact with God?  Is someone here moving toward the twilight of life and fearful of that which we call death?  That’s when we begin to interact with God.  Is someone here on the brink of despair because of the death of a loved one, the breaking of a marriage or long term relationship, of the waywardness of a child?  That’s when we call upon God.  God is able to give you the power to endure that which cannot be changed.  Is someone here anxious because of bad health?  Yes, we begin to speak with God. 

            Perhaps this is the gift and the message of the New Millennium.  We needed the buildup of fear – fear that our lives as we have come to know them will be unalterably changed. Many feared that God, or our own folly, would destroy the engines of progress, the computers of science – sending a message that we were all “looking in all the wrong places” for our salvation.  We HAVE been looking in the wrong places.  We have been casting blame in all the wrong directions.  We have been reluctant, even afraid, to take up the challenges of our future, and have instead, looked back, wistfully hoping it would all go away if we just kept our eyes shut.

            “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

            It is a new day.  The sun rose, and will continue to rise. Our fears will turn to confidence; and our confidence, no doubt, someday be shaken again.  Our grief will turn to joy; and our joys will sometimes bring us grief.

            In the beginning was the Word – and it wasn’t a floppy disk – although sometimes the Word is brought to us ON a floppy disk.  No, the Word – the words brought to us by God through Jesus, had more to do with Hope, Forgiveness, New Beginnings, and Peace.

            Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. 

Amen.

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