Monday, June 07, 2004

WHERE'S WALDO? IN MY CHURCH. A little while into the church service Sunday, I realized something. I am afraid of the new video screens. I am screenophobic!

A little background may be in order. Our church is renovating the sanctuary. We have new cushions, a new sound system, and video screens.

I expected them to show the words to songs. I can handle that. I do not know why people think other people will sing more if they can see the words to the songs on a video screen instead of a piece of paper, but can handle it.

I expected the pastors sermon outline, or bullet points. Although I do not need it, I realize the trendy thing right now is to make your sermon like a power point presentation for a business meeting, complete with bullets, and pictures, and visual effects, such as the Bible verse fading away and the next bullet point rising from its pixel ashes to display itself before our wondering eyes.

I do not need this, either, but I can tolerate it. It is a little funny to see the people in the congregation looking, not at the pastor who is speaking, but the screen on the wall, but, if that is what he wants, I can tolerate it.

But then something else happened. We broke into singing a great old hymn. The video screen lit up with the words. But, not just the words; it also began to cycle nature pictures. It showed pretty waterfalls, scenic sunsets, restful meadows. Then, it happened. I realized I was not thinking about God at all. I was thinking "that is a cool waterfall, I want to go there. I wonder where that is? I wonder if I found the package that video came in, would it tell where that is? What kind of video is it? Is it a DVD? Oooh, look at that sunset."

Then I stopped and realized that would not do. I picked up my "bulletin" and sang the words from the paper. I thought about the words and restored my worship.

Why do we need pictures of nature during the songs? I am afraid we will forget the words of the great songs and look at the pretty pictures. I am afraid we might think looking at and appreciating nature is worship of God. (Yes, before you get started on that comment, I know you can look at the stars and be impressed with God's creation. But, looking at a nature picture and thinking it is pretty falls short of worship of the Creator.)

There were people in America that practically worshipped nature, and certainly believed you could know God through nature. They were called Transendentalists. You read them in high school, notably Ralph Waldo Emerson. Here is a rule I have: never learn theology from a guy named Waldo. Trust me, it works every time.

Old Ralph said: Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.

I like nature with a lower case "n", not an upper case "N". I do not want to worship nature.

My name is Larry, and I am afraid of the video screens.
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