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Joy: Mindly Matter

Joy: The Book of Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  12:46
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Google Glass

The new schoolyear was to start in just a few days, when Jamie, a 14 year old young lady, and her father, Daryl, were out shopping for last minute school supplies, trying to get her best equipped to start her high school studies on the right foot. Full of ambition, and excited to learn, Jamie had enrolled in the school’s new, experimental section of Mandarin Chinese. Maple Valley High School had been teaching the language for the previous decade, but this experimental section would be different in that it required the usage of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the latest brain-computer interface device that has captivated the electronics market and the curiosity of the American public.
Previous generations of the Google Glass line had only found limited appeal, as they were somewhat akin functionally to just operating a miniature smartphone that had the ability to interact with your entire field of vision. But the new version of Glass carried an extraordinary upgrade, a single electrode hugging the forehead that not only acted as an EEG and recorded the electrical impulses the brain was emitting, but also produced its own impulses that the brain could interpret and retransmit. In short, the way it had the potential for working, was that whenever the colorful “G” was illuminated on the bottom of the glasses (facing the observer), the glasses had control of verbal response and simple physical actions, unless the wearer overrode the system
Google chose to market the devices in a way that extolled the personalities that the systems were preloaded with. And so in a display that looked similar to a shoe store, but with glasses, Daryl and Jamie looked from one set to another, reading the personality profiles of each device. Myrtle Brown was a personality emulating a Southern woman, focused on hospitality of her guests and brimming with recipes for down home country cooking. Ronny Cook was a outdoorsy type, able to tell where to catch a fish by just looking at any body of water, and operated from the framework that a night out under the stars sleeping in the bed of a pickup truck was better than any semblance of shelter. Google offered a full 30 “starter” personalities, all with their own areas of expertise. But of course, being that these devices were going to be used for school, the students were instructed to pick Jill Brimley and George Mahoney, both seasoned international travellers with mastery of all of the prominent world languages.
Daryl was not afraid to plunk down the 99 dollars for his daughter’s new educational tool, but there may have been a slight trepidation on his part nonetheless. It was a real concern that once the machine took control of her daughter’s body, that Jamie would never emerge the same. He valued that she would gain the immersion experience though, and so the cashier rang them up for the Jill Brimley package and they went on their merry way. For at least a few weeks, friends and family begged Jamie to act as Jill with the glasses on. But eventually Jamie ended up tiring of the novelty. Because she quickly realized that day after day in her Mandarin class, the conversations between all of the Jills and the Georges would take on a similar pattern. They were fluent, they were good businesspeople, but there was no heart, there was no real love, there was the faint trace of analytical coldness and repetition.

Same Mind

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to Philippi, he compels the people to complete his joy by being of the same mind. Would this mean then, that if we could get the character of Paul on Google Glass, that we should just give up on being ourselves and all of us can run as Paul for the rest of our days? Is Paul asking us to do something or be someone different than exactly who we are right now? This is where so many people stumble at the door of the Christian faith. They are convinced that they need to change themselves into that model saint of the church that they look up to and admire. They are convinced that if only they could read their Bible more, or take their multi-vitamin every day, or give a little bit more money to the poor, that maybe then they will be decent enough to have the mind that is the same as the saints. Is Paul really asking us for more though; is he asking us to augment ourselves (just what we would do if we assumed Paul’s persona in the Google Glass)? Or is he asking for something else entirely?
What Paul specifies is that he wants us to have the attitude that is ours in Christ Jesus. Now there is a chance of success in being able to emulate the persona of Paul through artificial means such as Google Glass. But we know, that even if the engineers tried to make an electronic persona of Jesus, that it would always inevitably be flawed. How could we come close to hurdling that bar on our own, with or without sophisticated technology? How do we have the same attitude as Christ?

Empty Ourselves

The answer is actually very clear, even though it’s simplicity is surprising. Jesus, even “though he was in the form of God” and had created this world in the very beginning, He “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” We see therefore that we are not called to augment ourselves, but rather to empty ourselves. We just need to stop being selfish and conceited, urges Paul. We need to empty ourselves so that we have the humility to count all others as more significant.
Being of one mind is not sharing the exact same opinion about everything under the sun. It is not about sharing the same personality traits or mannerisms. We thrive as a body of believers when different people bring different spiritual gifts to the table. Our one-mindedness comes instead in putting ourselves aside and being servants both to one another and to every single human being that we encounter. For all were made in the image of God, and Christ died on a cross so that all have the possibility of being freed from sin and death. We are called to be servants, and by serving to do the work of saving souls. But first we must decrease so that Christ may increase.
Ironic it is, that once we get off our own high horse, once we set forth as a humble servant, once we actually “do all things without grumbling or disputing;” that is the point at which we “shine as lights in the world.” We need to be emptied in order to have oil in our lamps.
God has already given us all that we need. We don’t need to do anything more in order to win His grace. We don’t need to get our act together to become the super-hero Christian that we envision in our mind. We don’t need the Jesus persona of Google Glass. But we might need to swallow our pride. We might need to bury the hatchet. We might even need to forgive the people that we feel so uncomfortable to share the same room with. When we shed these things like a cicada sheds his exoskeleton, we may be surprised to find the joy that Paul wanted to find in his knowing that we were of the same mind. When we empty ourselves, our focus changes. Church and ministry become no longer about catering to our preferences but rather are emboldened by setting as our first priority the fact that ultimately “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow” and that our mission is to bring that word of life to the ends of the earth before night falls.

No Waiting Required

If we don’t have to wait for Google to invent the next generation of Google Glass, if we don’t have to put aside our sweet, unique personalities and the gifts that God has blessed us with, then what are we waiting for? Paul does not tell us to abandon our own interests completely, he tells us rather that we need to “look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others.” When we, unaugmented and humbly, look past ourselves, we find ourselves in a position that God can work in us. Through Him we then can be beacons of a warm and holy love that the circuitries of Artificial Intelligence will always fail to know and embody. Empty yourselves. Surrender to Jesus in prayer and fasting. Keep walking when you see those fancy glasses on display. For Google Glass can never be any match to the real joy that comes from the “mind which is yours in Christ Jesus,” and the countenance on your face imparted by the Holy Spirit. “Shine as lights in the world,” and “be glad!”
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