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thoughts on the upcoming school year (theology is a verb)




i remember watching the old cartoon “The Jetsons” as a kid, enjoying the idea of flying cars, and robots making your meals for you at the push of a button.  at some point i concluded that this was a vision of our future, and sometimes, i have to admit, i look around and wonder where the flying cars are, or why we haven’t figured out a way to have smell-a-vision.  i mean, it’s 2018, people!  if i cant taste it through the TV, i want to at least smell what they’re making on the Great British Bakeoff! 

but today i read an amazing article by Avinash Kaushik about some of the technological advances that are happening in our world; things that will continue to unfold and evolve during our lifetimes.   he anticipates that by the time the next generation is reaching adulthood that we will have two categories of humans: organic and augmented.  he further suggests that by 2075 or 2100 all humans could be augmented.  augmented how?  well, maybe with a neuro-link device that would enable us to interact with computers, giving us all a nearly endless amount of knowledge, computational power, and memory.  another possible augmentation is a device that could allow our brains to communicate with one another without the use of actual speech.  with a kind of digital telepathy, augmented humans could potentially share information without all that tricky business of body language, tone, and miscommunication.  another future possibility, while more biological, is equally incredible.  Kaushik points us to thinking about CRISPR, or Clustered Regular Interspaced Short Palandromic Repeats, which are molecular devices which can find a string of dna code, make a surgical incision, and then repeat or delete as necessary at specific intervals.  in other words, the power to stop mutations, or create enhancements in human biology may be closer than we think. 

all of this is both incredibly exhilarating and absolutely terrifying to me.  i thought Rosie the Robot was just going to make my breakfast every morning and serve it to me in bed.  but this?  augmented humans, telepathy, and genetic manipulation?  i’m not sure i’m prepared for this. 

but in the midst of my racing thoughts, and my rising blood pressure, i read another article today.  this one, by Karoline Lewis, takes a look at something much older: a story in the Gospel of John (in chapter 6) that talks about how Jesus fed a huge group of people with a tiny bit of food.  after this great Jewish cook-off, Jesus goes on to speak about the bread, and how God had provided manna to their ancestors, and how this is sort of like that, only better, and Lewis makes the beautiful point that our understanding of God continues to grow and evolve.  “Theology is a verb, not a noun,” she says, “God is a being, not a thing.”  and in a way that science may or may not be able to fully explain, i could feel my heart filled with a peace that passes understanding. 

our faith ancestors in the desert, gathering manna from the ground, could never have imagined EZ-Bake ovens, or pizza delivery.  Yet they knew, in their own way, that God is a God who provides, who feeds, who nourishes and blesses in abundance where there seems to be scarcity.  Jesus may have been demonstrating that his life was that abundant blessing in a way that was no less substantial than a belly full of bread and fish, but his listeners that day could never have conceived of George Jetson on TV, or augmented human beings.  the scenery keeps changing, the props keep evolving, but one thing remains the same: we continue to discover more and more of who God is, how God provides in every desert, and how abundance is God’s calling card, even when things like decency or kindness, let alone full bellies, are in short supply. 

maybe our faith hasn’t answered questions yet about what to do with CRISPR or computer-intelligence embedded in our bodies, but we will not shrink from such questions, because God will continue to be the God who provides, who meets us where we are, and whose love is big and wide and high and deep enough to hold us in mercy and compassion and grace no matter what kinds of messes we get into.  this kind of wide-armed God isn’t help captive by our desperate desire for a static kind of god who behaves the way we expect.  no, God is a God who gives us room to breathe and even thrive in ambiguity, in questions, in open spaces of discovery and wonder and beauty. 

and so as we begin a new school year in a few weeks, may we dare to demand bigger dreams, and ask revolutionary questions, and look for provision and even abundance in the deserts of our learning.  may we be content to stay in spaces without quick answers or tidy conclusions.  may we discover that God is right there in the midst of what we cannot understand and what we do not know.  may we learn anew that theology is not a noun, but that thinking about God, and being in relationship with God, is a verb, and a beautiful one.  and may we find, when we look back on it, that this was a year of discovering new ways that God has continued to provide exactly what we need, in abundance. 

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