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a different way of seeing – viv coleman


My daughter-in-law works for Google (see photo); she’s currently on the team that is testing Google Glass. I tried out this innovative technology – basically a head-mounted computer – when I was in California last year. It’s weird. You can ask a question, make a call, set an appointment, navigate a trip or take a photo, with a smart device on your head. The weird thing is that you have to learn to look in a different way. Sort of up and in. You can see your contacts list, your calendar or the google search engine. Weird!

Being a Christian preacher is like google glass. You look at things differently. You are aware of another whole world, one you can choose to attend to, and you learn to look at both at the same time. It’s a kind of double vision. Remember Barth’s oft-quoted epithet, about preaching with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other? He may not have ever said that, but he did juxtapose Bible and newspaper many times, including in his commentary on Romans: “Reading of all forms of outspokenly secular literature – the newspaper above all – is urgently recommended for understanding the Epistle to the Romans.”

Today’s preachers will notice theological and worldview issues in many more media than the newspapers of Barth’s day. Just since I decided to post on this theme, I have discerned several topics worthy of note to a preacher:

  • A TED talk about curiosity and wonder that I came across researching Performance Review for my postgraduate project.
  • An article in the Listener about neuroplasticity showing that thinking about something can change the neural pathways
  • A biography of David Livingstone portraying his struggle with rigid LMS rules about polygamy that prevented his baptising a chief who had come to faith
  • A study group member asking where Jews make sacrifices today
  • Another wondering why Christians in China talk more about hell than Jesus-followers in Auckland
  • A Newstalk ZB host who declared there is no proof Jesus ever lived…

I’ll leave it to you to work out into which corner of the Paul Windsor swimming pool those themes fit (i.e. world, text, preacher, listener)! The point is you have to be constantly mining your experiences, and those of others, to find meaningful ways to communicate matters of faith. The Word of God can inform the wisdom of science, the insights of psychology and the realities of economics that surface in myriad facts and opinions that bombard my daily life, and conversely those cultural lenses can inform my grasp of God’s truth.

Settings where I have found useful topics for recent sermon preparation include my grandchildren (with whom I watched the Lego movie and noticed a Messianic trajectory), Facebook (about Christian university groups battling to have a presence on campus), my latest nonfiction reading (a book about WWII prisoners that I connected with today’s human trafficking) and a family discussion about Netflix that one informed my judgments about the eighth commandment. I even got a sermon illustration out of my addiction to an app on the iPad! It’s my Christian worldview google glasses that identify these connections, and help me as a preacher to embed the meaning of Scripture into people’s daily lives. The skills of noticing, listening and wondering help me make the best use of those glasses, which may well be what Paul was talking about when he said “we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2: 16)

What have you seen lately with that preacher’s ‘double vision’?

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