(Check back tomorrow for what songs we’ll sing Sunday)
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October 9th, 2014
Galatians, if you haven’t noticed by now, is a weighty document. Paul wades into deep themes. He speaks with sober gravitas. The destiny of those fledgling churches depends heavily on their reacquisition of the gospel first preached to them. The whole kit-and-caboodle is one heavy missive. And heavy words make for heavy contemplations.
So we could stand for something a bit lighter, yet which touches on a key theme in the letter. At risk of lightening things up a bit too much, I give you the Pavlok:
No, it’s not a ruse, but a real product that’s in production and will be available for purchase early next year. (HT: Steven Colbert via Mbird.com)
As the promo explains, it’s a device designed to effect lasting change. It does so through a sleek but scaled down version of electro-shock therapy, administering a 300 volt charge every time you fail to meet a predetermined goal. I’m told you can even set the negative reinforcement regimen to debit a certain amount from your bank account and post an embarrassing message on your Facebook account that you slacked off. For real? Yes, for real.
It’s a brilliantly slick advertising campaign with eye-catching imagery and just enough scientific jargon to sound authoritative. It taps into our deep frustrations stemming from one failed resolution after another. It promises real change in real-time using all the shimmering technologies to which we’ve become beholden.
To be fair, you’re the one responsible for telling it what to keep you accountable to; so this is no HAL 9000 at risk of going rogue. You can always take the device off your wrist so that you’re not inflicted with the shock to which you might’ve originally submitted yourself for deviancy. And this device doesn’t claim to change your character–only your habits. So for all its promise, it has a narrow domain of application.
But at least on cursory reflection, isn’t a device like this reducing transformation to purely a matter of punishment and reward? Isn’t true change bound up with doing what you ought, even when there is no reward or when there is no threat of punishment?
Before I get too deep into analysis on a product like this, let me explain why I even brought it up.
I may be wrong, or guilty of being too clever (it’s happened before), but I think you could say Paul’s complaint against the fledgling believers in Galatia is that by looking to the Law they were looking for a Pavlok. That is, in submitting themselves to every jot and tittle of the Mosaic Law they were seeking something concrete, something definitive to put enough fear into them that they’d be shocked into a submission only God could love. They wanted some control over their destiny, so they put themselves to work for the favor of God, and put the Law behind them like a charioteer whipping his frothing horses into a straight and true trajectory.
In ways not so dissimilar to the Pavlok, the Law both promised benefits of obedience to its adherents and also warned them of weal and woe for transgression. Both positive and negative reinforcement would occur through other means but unless something happened within the heart, the Law would always have a limit to what it could engender. That’s Paul’s argument, but it’s also Ezekiel’s and Jeremiah’s argument when they speak of a day when a new heart would be given upon which the Law would then be internalized (“written”).
The Pavlok seems like a perfect solution to our incorrigible creativity to escape transformation. Except that it’s only as effective as our own wills allow it to be. In the end, should we assume the wearers of the wrist-jolt will be any less frustrated (and demoralized) in the end? Appealing to the Law to whip us into shape has all the same noble intentions behind it. Except that both our hearts and wills will in time seek to cast off that which we put on. “The devil’s in too deep,” David Martin Lloyd-Jones was heard to say.
We need more than a shock to the system; we need a savior for the soul.
Woody Guthrie wrote the song, but Billy Bragg and Wilco recently re-recorded the track. It’s called “Union Prayer.” (you may have sign up to hear the track, but it’s free)
We’re gathering to pray as a church this Sunday night at the McAndrew’s, 6-8p, 1215 Rita Ln.
And we’ll be doing things a bit differently this time around. We’re not leaving behind what we’ve done before–only adding a little variety to the structure of our prayer time. This Sunday will have a more liturgical feel, with more structure to guide our prayers, most of which will come toward the end of our evening. I think it will be a beautiful time of prayer. In fact, you can download a draft of the service right here, in case you’d never come before and wanted a look at what we’ll do. We “count to eight” each time we pray, taking a cue from Jesus’ admonition to his disciples that they needed to factor in one more source of sustenance beyond the 5 loaves and 2 fish: they needed to count the God who can do more than they could’ve imagined. Hope you’ll join us Sunday night.
There was quite a bit of fodder to share in fullness from last Sunday, both from the sermon and Q&A. Here’s several of those items below.
David Brooks article “Introspection or Narcissistic” you can find here.
And thanks to Robin Harris, you can find a lecture he gave recently at The Gathering. Just click below.
The candid article by Irene Sherlock can be found here.
Frederica Matthews-Greene brief comments on Gender can be heard below.
And you can hear Tim & Kathy Keller’s talks on gender roles in the Church here.
- for his family as they mourn the loss of Thomas Duncan, and for the containment of the virus
- for the protection and wisdom of health professionals and for peace in our city
- for peace in Hong Kong in the pursuit of justice
- for Horace Williams, anticipating exploratory surgery
- for Barbara Byron, mother of Cathy McAndrew, recovering from follow-up surgery earlier this week
- for our new women’s Community Groups that commenced this last Tuesday!