#trending IV – Acts 17:22-23

Recap: sojourners and exiles

What is culture?  ANSWER>>>>

The culture of the world is flowing in a certain direction – do we just go with the flow?  Do we bunker ourselves away from the nasty dirty world out there? How can we be different but still relevant?  We have wrestled with parts of our 21st culture: smart devices and social media, movies and TV.   This week we are going to look at accumulation.

Let me make a little disclaimer at the beginning: this is not a rage against consumerism per se – we speak often enough about money and possession competing with Christ for first place in our hearts.  I would like to zoom out from our 21st century culture and look (as objectively as we can) at how strong the forces are that are driving the accumulation agenda of life.

A cultural of accumulation

If people are not here in Sunday morning where are they?  Some of them are sleeping off a hard week or doing some physical exercise.  But many people are at the shops.  The culture of RSA used to be “shops closed on Sundays”.  The culture has changed.  Don’t long for the past – learn what it means to live as an exile, a sojourner.  Let me give you three short portrayals:

Apple: a temple of worship

Let me give you one example that shed light on the direction in which our culture is going.  Apple makes computers, tablets, phones and other technology devices.  Cultural historians are the blog writers have identified the religious nature of Apple’s position.  Consider this:

  • In more ancient times, when communal experiences were mediated by religion, crowds used to gather outside temples on feast days. In Biblical times, for instance, on pilgrimage holidays like Passover, Jewish people were supposed to travel to Jerusalem, to be present at the Holy Temple, where the High Priest would make a sacrifice to God.

Nowadays, we have Apple Release Day—the Feast of St. Jobs—when faithful customers gather outside Apple stores and await the renewal of a next generation iPhone.[1]

  • “You are about to enter a building that is set apart – a place where you hope to join with others and experience something special, something unavailable to anyone who is not with you in this moment.  As you walk along the streets and draw closer to this sanctuary, this refuge in the midst of a bustling city, you sense that the building itself is speaking to you.  The transcendence of the architecture say to you that you will experience something other worldly in this place.  You notice that the doors are huge, much bigger than they need to be.  Their heaviness communicates something about the weightiness of this experience.  As you walk in the ceiling is slightly lowered until you walk into the spacious amphitheatre the makes your body feel like you’re entering somewhere sacred or holy. This is Trevin Wax’s comment on entering Apple’s store in Soho Manhattan.[2]

Other bloggers have just plainly called it a Apple’s latest “Temple” and likened some followers of Apple products to a cult.[3]

The biggest tech religion is the Church of Apple, with countless blogs defending its every move, regardless of whether it’s a good one… Apple cultists are often quick to question not just the judgment, but the motives and personal character of anyone who dares to question the company’s magic touch. And, because they can’t see any other way of thinking, they assume that if you praise or use an Apple product, you must have signed up for the whole religion.[4]

  • One blogger ends their article like this: Apple seems to understand that the people who visit their store are looking for answering to questions deeper than how they should make calls or connect to the internet. On the walls of the stores, framed by the border of a screen, are pictures of planets and star systems—with these flat, luminescent, monolithic devices, they seem to promise, you can understand the entire universe.[5]

This is the culture we are living in.

All year shopping

We are really on the edge, if we have not already crossed the line of the religion of shopping.  Calendars have always been peppered with the holy days of a culture – religious feast, commemoration days, historic days of victory or freedom.  We live at a time when the dominant religion is sales and shopping:

  • Easter has been commercialised into a chocolate holiday
  • South Africa has historically had no connection with Halloween – yet hundreds of thousands of Rands are elicited from people’s pockets of “candy”.
  • South Africa doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving (if there was anything good it was thanksgiving and family gathering) but we have Black Friday (Black Five-day = Makro)and Cyber Monday. They are the opening of the Christmas season of shopping.  What does it mean that one of the two central celebrations of Christianity has become a marked to count down shopping day: “There are 15 shopping days til Christians”.  Christmas is defined by shopping, accumulation, spending money.  What would people think of that statement in 1868?
  • That is not to forget Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day – what is wrong with celebrating mothers fathers and love – because we celebrate it by buying things.

Advancement: how we measure life

The longings that many of us have in our heart for stability and comfort are good and right.  But the overarching story that we live by year after year is that you start at the bottom of the ladder and your mission in life is to climb the ladder as far as you can.  The end of the journey is financial security and a successful career (often that includes aspirations of a house car, pool, tertiary education for the children).  So when a job offer comes to a young lady or man the question is: is it a move up, is there more money, is that more status.  But if the primary guide in our life is accumulation and financial goals then we will go astray.

Mini-conclu

We don’t have to recite the creed: happiness through accumulation; technology is god; No the myth works on us subconsciously, getting to our hearts through our actions.  It’s in the things that we don’t even think to ask about.

How to hold loosely to things that are fleeting

Scripture: be saturated – grab one of these!

  • Ecclesiastes 5:10 Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.
  • Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
  • Matt 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
  • Matt 19:24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
  • 1Tim 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
  • 1Tim 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
  • Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
  • Matt 13:22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
  • Matt 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
  • Luke 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” 16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Trials: going through the fire

Lest I be accused of thinking I am smarter that those who tried to counsel Job (cause they were rebuked by God), I would just put forward to you that there are times when God allows certain trials into our lives so that we would better see the fleeting nature of money and possessions.  Count it pure joy because that is how God purifies your faith.

Community: honest accountability

We need community – people who will honestly look into our lives and ask the thought questions.  That is what it means to love people well – we need to speak the truths of scripture into each other’s loves and wrestle with what it means to live in obedience to the radical gospel of Christ

Giving: counter cultural attitude

The best way to strike at the heart of greed is to give…. See Wax

 

 

[1] https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/we-asked-a-cultural-historian-are-apple-stores-the-new-temples

[2] T Wax, This is out time

[3] https://www.cultofmac.com/21140/apples-latest-store-on-new-yorks-upper-west-side-is-a-temple/

[4] https://www.recode.net/2014/1/2/12098626/its-not-a-church-its-just-an-apple-store

[5] https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/we-asked-a-cultural-historian-are-apple-stores-the-new-temples