The Second Sunday in Lent

I had a computer glitch on my laptop at Westfield House. I judged it to be a genuine problem not a scam but I couldn’t fix it. So rather than try and work it out by myself, I contacted the company online and soon I was chatting to an online helper.

I learnt a long time ago that a computer does what I tell it to do. This means that if it is doing something I don’t recognise or want or think is wrong, my starting point is that I’ve told it to do it! The reality is that I don’t understand what I’ve told it to do! I typed in my situation – and received the reply ‘Well, it could be one of three things …’. I read the replies … they all suggested in one form or other ‘user error’. Just as I thought – somehow, in some way I’ve created this situation! We narrowed down the issue but I didn’t have the time or really the patience or necessarily the know-how to fix it so I asked whether my cyber assistant could help. “Sure – but I have to ‘take over’ your computer.” “Go ahead” I said and so began a fascinating few minutes (this whole things took about 25 minutes) whereby the computer did things I didn’t tell it, the cursor moved ‘magically’, the screen had writing appear and ticks and arrows telling me to do things which resulted in programmes uninstalled, new ones installed and the assurance that all was ‘fixed’ for as long as I use the laptop. I hope so. (We’ll see!)

Are the problems of our world – of life – whether on an individual level or a global level – essentially ‘operator error’? How nice it would be to have someone ‘take over’ and ‘correct the programme’! That is until we stop and think about what it means to be human – what is our identity and where is our agency in this world? How much of living is dealing with what’s been ‘handed to me’ and with what I do each day living with the people around me? If my life has ‘operator error’ at least I can either blame ‘nature’ (God, my parents, and so on) or ‘nurture’ (everyone around me – that means you) which of course is a convenient strategy to dodge the real responsibility for my ‘operator error’ – me. Yes, nature and nurture can shape and influence me but we have to come to grips with ‘operator error’ which means coming to grips with ourselves. We need to ‘own’ our behaviour. Of course we can do many noble and wonderful and kind and caring things but also we can do many selfish, cruel, mean and nasty things. And we know reasons for both – and there is mystery to both.

What God does is far more radical than take control of our central processing unit and fix a programme or two. God through Jesus kills us and makes us alive – we are linked to Jesus’ death and resurrection in baptism. Christians are new creations in Christ. We live this new identity while still in the same body as before. We live this new relationship but still the same person in the same time and place as before. We now face the issue of trusting and following either God through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit or what we think and experience as what is best for us. Being a Christian isn’t easy. God doesn’t reprogramme us and switch our brains off. No, being a Christian is about discipleship – following a voice – following a person – in this case Jesus – where our brains are switched on as we work out how to live each day.

Welcome! A warm welcome to you!! May God guide you and assure you of his care. If you’re a visitor, please feel free to contact Pastor or any of our congregational members if we can be of assistance. We have a contact list in the foyer for you to put your details, if you wish to do so!

And this life – this struggle – may have all sorts of unforeseen consequences – and requires faithfulness on our part – but gradually we learn that there is no better way to live. Jesus doesn’t ‘take me over’ but he has given me his life, his care, his promises and his presence. Discipleship is about living with all this – with Jesus in mind. GS

PS. And now for the computer unintended consequence – sigh! (I believe that we rarely see the full consequences of our decisions, choices, and behaviours.) Somehow in fixing one computer glitch I erased another entire programme! Aarrgghh! Oh well, that’s next week’s problem!