Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
- 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.
- Philippians 1:18b-19
As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.
Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith.
Grace be with you all.
- Titus 3:12-15
On the day of writing this, yesterday, I was washing dishes and a thought came to my mind, “Write a post about what would not be happening, if this pandemic happened not long ago.” I was stunned. The thought barged in when I wasn’t thinking about blogging at all. I was trying to listen to the television in another part of our great room.
While steps delineate almost every room of our house, the ‘great room’ is a room on a few ‘floors’ and almost no doors. The entrance way is on one floor. You can walk up the steps to the second floor, go through a door with a single step to the master bedroom, or descend four steps to the sunken living room. Across the living room, you can go up three steps (so not on the same level as the house entrance) to the kitchen and dining area. At the far side of the kitchen, you can descend into the upper level of the basement (only one step to the lower level) or take a half step down to the back porch through the sliding glass door. Don’t worry about all the steps. If you lay something round on a hard floor surface, it rolls to the low spot, thus none of the level surfaces are level anyway. All that being said, the television in the living room was only a distance of five paces away, but far below the level where I was washing dishes.
The thought in my head was as much of an interruption as the tests of the emergency alert system on the television. You know, “Honk!!! Honk!!! Honk!!! If this was a real alert, we would tell you something important, but this is just a test.” In the meantime, you are having a real emergency as you feel like the interruption, that is many decibels above your usual volume setting, has just given you a heart attack – for a test. Not an emergency, a test. Sorry, channeling my inner Allen Iverson who complained in a similar manner about “practice.” (a former professional basketball player and one that did not like ‘practice.’)
So, I finished the dishes and went downstairs, without going through any doors, to the computer in the lower basement level. I immediately became distracted and read a few e-mails and a few blogs. One blog was David Robertson, the Wee Flea, who said on his “Life in Wartime” podcast with Stephen McAlpine, that our means of talking over the internet to our loved ones was great. The engineers had developed wonderful technology for that, but it wasn’t the same as hugging your grandchildren. Then he added, as an aside, that maybe he would hug an engineer when allowed to do so.
Hey!!! I’m an engineer. I had nothing to do with development of this wonderful technology, but I love hugs. “Bro hugs” are okay, but I give my children and grandchildren bear hugs. If they don’t groan as all the air leaves their lungs, I didn’t squeeze hard enough. I LOVE HUGS!!!! And I do it with gusto so that the recipient will remember them.
That being said, to mirror what the Wee Flea was saying, and the thought in my head was pointing toward only minutes before, we would not have Zoom ten years ago, although I have not used it this time. Most of those who have been working from home would be unable to do so to the present extent ten years ago. It might be nearly impossible to do so fifteen years ago. And twenty to twenty-five years ago, it could only be done by taking your work library of books and files home with you and writing your reports in “cursive.” And these days, the younger generations don’t know what “cursive” is.
I was first hired out of college as a computer application engineer, mostly reducing chemical processes to a string of calculations to affect more efficient chemical plant operations. For one of my applications, I developed software to connect with the company mainframe computer remotely, years before personal computers were invented, but we had modem capable monitors. We had a modem installed, but there was a problem. It had to be connected through the switchboard. I know, some of you are asking, “What’s a switchboard?” The switchboard operator was instructed in what to do when a modem call came in, but at night, the guards answered the phone. I remember telling a guard to connect me to the modem’s telephone number, but I had to explain, “Before I give you the number to transfer me to, you are going to hear some squeaks and squawks. It’s going to sound awful, like the phone is broken. Don’t hang up like the last guard did. Just connect me, and I will talk to the computer in its language.” Only then could I remotely connect. But that technology was cutting edge 45 years ago.
We don’t need that anymore. We hear a melodious song on our phone, and we know, if we’ve programmed it that way, exactly who is calling before we pick up the phone. We might even have a video chat over our phones. And what’s more, neither of our phones are tethered by wire to the wall.
For all who are complaining about the isolation due to this pandemic, think of what it would be like ten years ago, twenty years ago, or thirty years ago. We would truly be isolated. If we had to endure this at some point, think of God’s perfect timing.
Now let’s look at the Scriptures. The Scripture from 1 Timothy talks of rich people. Today, whether rich or poor, most of us have more computing capabilities in our pockets than I did in a highly air-conditioned room 45 years ago. This pandemic came at a time that allows us to be social connected while being distanced. I complain about the electronic age and how we should put the phones down and make eye contact, but I told the pastor a month ago about how he had looked into the camera lens and it appeared that we were making eye contact. I’m going to miss that we the video livestream church services disappear, and we go back to the sanctuary, where my comfort spot is the center aisle to the right, on the pulpit side, and about halfway down the aisle. Any closer and it becomes off-putting and the volume is too loud. Any further back, you are in the midst of those who are there to be seen, not to worship, because it is obvious when their conversation is only interrupted when everyone is asked to stand and sing a hymn. Back there, I never hear the sermon over the din of other conversations. I will miss the “eye contact,” even knowing that staring at a camera lens is probably awkward for the pastor. All because we are rich in technology, technology that did not exist that many years ago.
The second Scripture talks about God’s provision of the Holy Spirit. Our technological provision has come from countless people being inspired to see what the technology can produce. Our first couple of livestream worship services were a single camera recording a single view. Then we had a second camera and they would switch between them. Then we had the Welcome to Worship prerecorded in the Narthex, a prayer prerecorded in the Chapel, and the minute for a reminder to give tithes and offerings prerecorded in someone’s house. Yesterday, the youth did the service, the annual Youth Sunday. There was less than two minutes that were shown (maybe not even live) from the sanctuary. In a skit (with brother and sister, so no violation of social distancing) in their backyard, the boy forgot his lines, but he had a trusty tablet in his hands and cheated a little by glancing down at it. Even then, it was obvious that they did multiple takes with different camera angles. We had a boy give a prayer, outdoors in horrible weather, complaining in painful for blissful honesty that he was sitting on a wet lawn chair. Then the Scripture was read by another teen, obviously on a different day, with blue skies and white puffy clouds passing by.
All of those improvements to the worship service came from the Holy Spirit inspiring the tech-people in stretching what they knew they could do to making the worship service more experiential than you would normally get sitting in a pew. I will miss that also.
And the third Scripture calls for us to help those who may not have the means that we have. Soon after this is posted, I will be at the church, dropping off canned goods for the church’s, and local community’s, food bank. Since the church has been locked down, the giving to the food bank has been hampered, although the giving from the food bank has not stopped, just shifted from a line distribution inside the church to the recipients going through a makeshift drive through. Again, something that might not have been thought of twenty years ago, although the technology has been around for quite some time.
May God be praised. For many, this pandemic and the social distancing has not been easy, but God’s timing has been perfect. Evil cannot win the day, for God is at work even in times of trouble.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.