In the August 11, 2001, issue of Christian Century writer Katherine Willis Pershey writes, “If worship is a form of attention, it sure seems like many of us are actually worshiping our phones (tablets, devices). Later in the same article she writes, “We need to relearn a capacity to dwell in God’s presence. We need to cultivate the sort of resilient solitude immune to the temptation to check for notifications. We need to be neighbors before we are consumers. We need to immerse ourselves in holy scripture, even if it seems a bit boring compared to whatever is trending on Twitter (or Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok). If…”to behold is to become beholden to,“ Christians must behold Christ. Again and again, until we are beholden. And even still again.” I copied and kept this article as a challenge to myself, warning of the frequency with which I look at my phone.
Rather than self-berating or guilting, or devolving into shaming myself, I took from this article the statement about worship as a form of attention, hence many of us are worshiping our phones, as a challenge to become aware of what I “behold” in a day’s time on my phone, what I read, what I watch. With no effort on my part, I behold thousands of images, experiences, sounds, activities. If I were to add them all up, what would the image look like? I daresay an objective observer would not only NOT recognize that image as Christ, but probably not even note any semblance of a faith-guiding, heart-strengthening, life-affirming, or positive image to put inside my head, heart, or life.
According to Pershey, “We need to immerse ourselves in holy scripture, even if it seems a bit boring compared to whatever is trending on Twitter (or Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok).” And that is what I am inviting all of Hope’s congregation and friends to do, is to begin to build in a daily interaction with Scripture. Prayerfully approach God in a set aside time of quiet, and challenge yourself to read one Psalm a day, and ponder it for several minutes. When you have your Bible on your phone or a divide, pull up BibleGateway.com and search there for a Psalm from 1-150. Flip over in your Bible to Luke’s gospel or one of the other gospels and just read a few verses, then be aware of what you are beholding. What does it say about who God is? Who Jesus is? Who the Holy Spirit is? Who does it say you are, we are in the sight of God? When you are finished spending time beholding Scripture, sit in silence to recollect what image, word, phrase, idea you want to hold onto?
If you are already in the habit or routine of quiet time or devotional time with the Lord, read a little further, write down your thoughts, paint, draw, or record your reactions. It will surely mean less time with a device (unless you are looking things up on your phone during this time. You know that the challenge is to just alter what you look at and behold as a conscious move toward worship and the Holy.
Stay safe, mask up, avoid crowds a bit longer. Hold on, pray BIG, stay connected in safe ways (telephone, text, email, cards). Reach out when the Spirit nudges, know you are loved and share all the love you can, however you can.
With love and hope in Christ,
Pastor Chuck Goodman has been pastor at Hope for nearly ten years. He writes each week about what's on his mind, giving readers something to meditate on until and beyond Sunday.