Open Source Sermon: Topic Chosen

Deadline day. Today’s the day we choose the topic for the world’s first open source sermon. Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment, to make suggestions, and to critique. Here’s the full list of sermon topic proposals pulled from your comments.

  • The church’s role in caring for the environment
  • The possibility of life on other planets
  • The laughter/humor of God
  • Christianity vs. narcissism
  • Food, fellowship, and eating disorders
  • The body of Christ

Based on the comments, the top three suggestions were: the environment, the humor of God, and the body of Christ. I agree that the environment is an important topic, and one too often ignored in churches. On the other hand, I’m obviously interested in the idea of a God that laughs. (Hence the name of my blog!) But I think the body of Christ image has the most to offer in this context.

We are performing an experiment, a two way test. The net promises limitless information and collaboration, but do those promises apply to the church as well? Is Jesus welcome on the net? If not, then this experiment will fail. The open source processes that created elegant, complex software like Linux and Firefox will fail to produce a preachable sermon. All we’ll get is more of the triviality and purposeless argument that so often passes for content on the net.

But the test works both ways. The church promises connections too: peace and wholeness. The church promises more than information: truth, or at least wisdom. It promises we will be the body of Christ, and Christ will be our spiritual head. Then it hides those promises behind walls of bureaucracy and conformity. Is the net welcome in the church? If not, then this experiment will fail. The church that learned Latin, German, English, and thousands of other languages will fail to speak to the digital age. All we’ll get is more of the triviality and purposeless argument that so often passes for sermons on Sunday morning.

If we do it right, the sermon itself will become a meta-message of hope.

Congratulations! We’ve completed the first step. Our subject is the body of Christ in a digital age. Paul has already suggested a possible sermon title, “Jesus is my Facebook Friend”. Our next job is to find scriptures that speak insightfully to that topic. We need at least one Biblical text, but non-biblical texts are welcome as well. Put your suggestions in a comment to this post. The deadline is Aug 23 at noon, Central Standard Time (GMT-6) when I’ll choose the winner(s) with consideration both to the principles of the project and the general consensus of contributors.

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16 thoughts on “Open Source Sermon: Topic Chosen

  1. BardRT says:

    “The Body of Christ” is by far my favorite subject here.

    “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” -something a guy said after getting over being emo. (romans 12? I forget.)

    And every one members one of another.

    That’s a pretty obscure way to say we’re all stuck sucking in atmosphere and spitting out air-borne plant food. So, okay, we’re all in this together, what does that really mean?

    When I was a kid, it used to mean bringing over food or mowing the lawn because someone in the neighborhood was sick, or all sorts of other things.

    Now I get more out of staying up an extra 3 hours after bedtime to talk online with someone in europe about his newest computer programming work project because his kid kept him up and he needs help to stay employed. That’s far better than anything I ever got out of a tuna casserole. (And let’s be fair, I’m an educated connoisseur of tuna + noodles + frozen vegetables + cream of X soup, and I don’t see myself tiring of the myriad of possible combinations there any time soon).

    I may not actually help the guy with his specific problem every time, but we still connect and keep up here and there, even though I’m not dinging his doorbell. This happens with many people I know only through typing with them. I’m awake or focusing or putting forth effort because I’m part of a group. A body. A fellowship.

    So instead of walking for hours and sneaking into a cave with others, I’m coming home after work and joining a chatroom.

    While time may have changed HOW we gather, it certainly hasn’t changed the fact that we interact on a personal level when we do so.

    Lots of things change, but one thing remains a constant.
    Our reaching need for Unity and for each other.

    Hebrews 10:25
    Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another; and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

  2. Dave says:

    A few things came to mind as I’ve been mulling this one over the past few days, I’ve already been semi beating to the punch on the first one, but It’s something that I personally feel is extremely important; relationship, fellowship, and discipleship. It’s been my impression to some degree that with all this wonderful technology we have, it becomes simple to communicate with essentially anyone, anywhere, at anytime, but it also becomes so much easier to isolate oneself from real interaction, easy to hide behind the same technology that opens up so many doors of communication. I’ve also seen, and this was one of my largest excuses for avioding “Church” back in my rebellious days, that all too often, though not intentional, many churches focus intently on bringing new people in, getting new converts, and then thats that. Too often we overlook that the Great Commission does not tell us to make “converts” of all men, but “Disciples”. One wouldn’t take a new born baby and simply drop him into a crib with some baby food and say “enjoy life” No, mentors in the faith are essential to help these new “babes in faith” as it were to move from milk to meat, to grow in thier walk, help them with questions, and so on. It is essential, especially in the digital age where communication is so easy, for this to occur. I am borderline obsessed with the importance of discipleship, but this leads me to my second point.

    It is also important that we recognize and respect the different offices and positions in the Church Body as a whole. Without evangelists, people with a heart for discipleship such as myself would have noone to take under our wings, without teachers, how would we expand our knowledge and understanding, so on so forth, everyone plays an important role (1 Corinthians 12) and for the body to function, each must act freely within his gifting, and we must not tear at others for doing things differently. Perhaps this one is directed at myself, as I often struggle with criticsizing others who I think are approaching a matter incorrectly, and forget that we all have a unuiqe perspective and purpose to make the body run smoothly.

    My final thought (for now anyways) is taken from 1 Corinthians 9:22 “…I have become all things to all men…” in other words, we go where the need is. This doesn’t mean we put ourselves in compromising situations, I wouldn’t expect someone who struggles with alcohol to go to a bar, but at the same time, some of my closest friends and deepest theological discussions with same friends have been made and occured in pubs and bars. We see an example of this very concept in this very blog (Cyber Padre or Suburban Pastor?) Our focus shouldn’t be about throwing or flaunting our faith in someones face, and I’m by no means saying that is the case here, if it was many of the ideas brought forth by this blog…wouldn’t be, I guess I’m merely seconding that focus, we must build relationships, be there for people in time of need, and they will recognize that openness, the True Love we show, and God will open thier hearts, it is not our job to cause people to believe and accept Christ, simply to show them the love of Christ and go from there. That, I believe, is the ultimate goal of the Church in the digital age, to use the technology given us to further spread the love of Christ in a world that see’s far to much of the opposite, sadly all to often from the very Church that is supposed to offer hope and salvation.

    “Preach the Gospel, and if needs be use words” St Francis of Assisi, words are empty if we don’t live the life to back them up, the number reason why people fall away from Church is hypocrosy, it’s why I left, thank God I had friends within the Church who cared about me and showed me the importance of relationship and fellowship and brought me back into the fold. I’d heard the Gospel message from youth, I knew the Sunday School answers, it was the relationships and seeing others truely live and strive in thier Christian walk that convinced me of the reality of the message. (Sorry if I rather followed a rabbit trail on the last point…)
    God Bless

  3. Jason Hanson says:

    I know this is the time to submit biblical texts that will speak to the issue of the body of Christ. I intend to do this also (without so much blah, blah, blah). But I have to ask whether the selected topic is about the body of Christ as a whole and how it works together to grow and to fulfill the great commission in the digital age or whether it more specifically concerns the digital body of Christ, the hyper-modern fellowship of cyber-Christians and virtual-believers?

    If we mean the first, I think any text on the Incarnation would do, including the miracle on Pentecost (another type of Incarnation), and how Yahweh is the God who wants everyone to understand Him, traditionally or technologically, and goes to great lengths to make Himself understandable.

    But if we mean the second, I can think of a number of biblical texts that speak to individuals who are all but cut off from community because of their lack of computer competence and how Christians should be aware of possibly isolating a technologically illiterate community. At least we should caution ourselves about deciding that computers will be the primary means of fellowship outside the foyer, for every time we press a button today we decide for everyone else the type of world and sort of Church we will have tomorrow.

    We might also want to consider preliminary issues on the topic before selecting a text(s). We need to stop and think whether a virtual Church is the right thing to try and create. Can we really foresee what it would look like? And do we assume that the creation of this type of Church will be a good thing only because we happen to prefer running digital popularity contests, blogging, and recreating ourselves without blemishes or wrinkles, safe from the dirtiness of disagreement and the clumsiness of live conversation? Are we projecting our desires onto God, making Him into our own image, a cyber-God? To repeat Alcuin’s warning: what does Neo have to do with Christ? (I personally disagree with Alcuin’s position, but I want people to think critically about the proposed topic).

    In Christ.

  4. revsmilez says:

    Since I’m going to be preaching this to a congregation, people who have embraced a covenant commitment with God, each other, and me as one of their pastors, I’m definitely leaning toward the first. The idea of a cyber church is interesting to me, and something I’d have a blast arguing out with you all, but I think “the body of Christ as a whole and how it works together to grow and to fulfill the great commission in the digital age” is more appropriate for this context.

  5. PsycH/Quad says:

    One of the interesting things about being online is that while some people will recreate themselves, how is that any different then the image that people primp and prime themselves up to go to church. Hiding their personal lives and triumphs and sins behind the nice clothes, the makeup and the sunday morning coffee.
    The success of websites like post secret, the proliferation of places like 4chan and SomethingAwful. Anonymity is powerful, and we are in an age where its power is being realized. And while the internet is never TRULY anonymous, it provides people with an outlet to discuss and share things in ways that they may never do in real life for fear of recrimination.
    Holding one another accountable under christ is something that we should be doing, personally, I don’t need to know your name, your past, your history, your age or race, all I need to know is that you exist, and that you need someone to care about you.
    While we discuss dragging the church kicking and screaming into the digital age, how about we bring back some of the old. Confession. A place where you can come, and get advice, help, a listening ear, and spiritual guidance, without the worry of it spreading through the church social grapevine.

    just some random thoughts, adding this to my RSS now XD

  6. Dave says:

    PsycH/Quad, I completely agree, and would add to that point that we must be always ensure when embracing and utilizing the new, we do not forget the old, the traditions, the Church history, what makes the Church what it is. As far as the latter part, to some degree it already exists, I don’t want to go to far off topic, but this fits the concept of ministry in the digital age; theres a ministry called Teenhopeline that provides forumns, irc chat rooms monitored by thier staff, emailed Bible studies and such, I still pop in everynow and then, not nearly as often as I used to, still get thier Bible studies, it’s a nice quick thought to add to my daily quiet time, and believe you me really makes me focus when my quiet time and thier email focus on the same thing, kinda God’s way to go “you paying attention”

  7. ruhama says:

    So this morning one of the texts my pastor used was 2 Cor 5: 9-10 (his main topic was rewards Christians will get at judgement), which jumped out at me, as no matter where we are, we’re still a part of the Body.

    Something else I’ve been thinking about is encouragement and how is that being accomplished in the church, especially digitally? It’s so easy to misinterpret typed words or be cruel (especially if you can be anonymous), but the amount of time spent online is growing and may be the optimal way to reach or check up on some people.

  8. revsmilez says:

    Found this vid on collaboration vs. institution. Fodder for consideration.
    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/clay_shirky_on_institutions_versus_collaboration.html

  9. Ryan says:

    Here are the 2 scriptures I know of that most directly deal with the Body of Christ”. I might see if I can add more later.

    1 Corinthians 12:12-31

    12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”

    Ephesians 4:1-16

    I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” 9 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

  10. Jason Hanson says:

    As much as I want to get on board with ministry in the digital age, and as much as I see the internet’s effectiveness for mass communication of God’s Word, I can’t seem to shake the conviction that we are pushing the Church in the wrong direction. But I also think this conviction preaches and has relevance for the chosen topic.

    In particular, I would emphasize the verses quoted above from 1Cor 12:12-31:

    20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

    But who are the “inferior members” in the context of the digital age? Is it those who are going hog-wild buying all the latest gadgets and teaching themselves several different computer languages in order to have the best looking Christian website (and thus win the virtual-conversion contest). Or is it the people whose lives are being controlled by a technical world and a process they do not understand? Those alienated from every community because their old way of doing things is obsolete and because every Church has switched over to a digital format?

    If the internet becomes our primary means of loving God and loving our neighbor as ourself, aren’t we saying to those of the body who are technologically illiterate, “I have no need of you?” Or “Get caught up with the digital age or get out?”

  11. ruhama says:

    There was a bit on Talk of the Nation today on NPR about how the Internet has actually isolated some people, which kind of goes with what Jason is saying–people don’t have to have physical fellowship with one another (e.g. even grocery shopping can be done online). I believe it was part of this story:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=93802002

    So then the question is, what’s the point of a church webpage? And how static should it be?

    But, what about the person who’s had surgery and can’t get to church for a while? Or they have to work Sundays for the summer? Would the benefit of a church podcasting sermons be better than nothing? Perhaps we should realize the Internet can’t replace the physical body, but can be an aspect of it. :shrug:

  12. Jason Hanson says:

    “Perhaps we should realize the Internet can’t replace the physical body, but can be an aspect of it.” I have no disagreement there. I’m not trying to sidetrack anyone into an argument about the merits and demerits of a Church website or virtual Church. I’m trying (*humph*) to stay on task by emphasizing a central concern regarding the body of Christ in the digital age. I think a collective or wiki-sermon on the topic of the body of believers should include some words about those outside the virtual circle, especially in light of 1Cor 12:20-27. I guess I was casting my vote for the last verses Ryan quoted (esp. vv. 20-27). My comments maybe haven’t sounded very moderate, but I really just mean to avoid extremes. I’m not suggesting we throw the baby out with the bath water.(I have many other cliches I could use here and not a few parables. Tune in next week for: “There’s more ways to get to the top of a tree than just sitting on an acorn”:)

  13. Dave says:

    I’d say we can all pretty much agree that the tools have the digital age need to be used as just that, tools. I think it’s safe to say that noone is suggesting we do away with the “brick and mortar” Church, simply adding to it. I agree that we need to ensure that we don’t alienate those that are “technologically challenged”, it’s a matter of balance, I’d agree with Jason that we should aviod extremes on both ends, we shouldn’t ignore tools of the digital age, and we shouldn’t rely entirely upon them, we are after all, still people, and sometimes we still need a good old fashioned hug, “all things for all men”

  14. Les Shultz says:

    Here is my suggestion for a text for our sermon, “Jesus, My Facebook Friend.”

    31“To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
    ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
    we wailed, and you did not weep.’
    33For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; 34the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children,” (Luke 7:31-35 NRSVA).

    Jesus was and is the friend of tax collectors and sinners!

    That includes us all!

  15. [...] I get back from camping on Sunday, so you have between now and then to add your suggestions to the Open Source Sermon Topic thread. I’ll give things a look once I get back and post Sunday night. Assuming all goes [...]

  16. CewFeeneclilk says:

    Nothing seems to be easier than seeing someone whom you can help but not helping.
    I suggest we start giving it a try. Give love to the ones that need it.
    God will appreciate it.

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