Thinking Out Loud

September 20, 2018

Your Smartphone and Family Gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas

Who are these people?

Why must we spend Thanksgiving with them every year?

Isn’t there a game on right now?

You’re trying to feign interest and laugh in the right places, but with such limited contact you really don’t have much in the way of shared experiences or shared interests with your spouse’s family. The thing that matters to you is your Savior, but past experience has shown that when it comes to religion, this is a tough crowd.

Your wife’s great aunt is sitting at the opposite end of the couch from you. She’s getting less out of this than you are, since English isn’t her first language. What part of Eastern Europe is she from again?

You pull out your smartphone and open YouVersion. Scanning the list of languages in the menu, one stands out. You give it a try. And then you pass her your phone gesturing for her to have a look.

You watch as she smiles as she reads, in her own tongue,

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

And then she does something rather remarkable. She doesn’t give the phone back. Instead, very tentatively, she takes the hand that isn’t holding the phone and places a finger on the screen, scrolling down to read more.

After a few minutes she realizes she’s monopolizing the thing. “Thank you;” she says, passing it back. At least she speaks some English.

You turn to another passage, this time highlighting it; and again she reads in her own language,

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.

As fast as you can navigate the menu — you’re accustomed to just looking things up in English, after all — and as soon as verse references come to mind, you’re passing the phone back and forth. You have no idea where she stands on matters of faith, but something is resonating, to the point where both of you are oblivious to anything else happening in the room.

Weeks later, it’s another Christmas gathering.

This time it’s your side of the family, yet you’re equally bored.

You wonder how the aunt’s getting on, and if you can repeat what you did at Thanksgiving, but everybody here speaks English. And again, it’s a roomful of people who wouldn’t be caught dead with a Bible in their hands at an event like this. That discussion would devolve rather quickly.

But again, at the opposite end of a similarly long couch is your twelve year old nephew. His own smartphone has had a technical issue and he doesn’t get along well with his cousins who are playing the latest game on the big screen downstairs. They consider him too nerdy.
You pull out your phone and hunt down one of the more “cool” versions of John 9 and pass him the story of Jesus healing a man born blind. No comment, you simply pass your phone.

…“Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

3-5 Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do…

Soon the town was buzzing. His relatives and those who year after year had seen him as a blind man begging were saying, “Why, isn’t this the man we knew, who sat here and begged?”

Others said, “It’s him all right!”

But others objected, “It’s not the same man at all. It just looks like him.”…

18-19 The Jews didn’t believe it, didn’t believe the man was blind to begin with. So they called the parents of the man now bright-eyed with sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, the one you say was born blind? So how is it that he now sees?”

20-23 His parents said, “We know he is our son, and we know he was born blind. But we don’t know how he came to see—haven’t a clue about who opened his eyes. Why don’t you ask him? He’s a grown man and can speak for himself.” (His parents were talking like this because they were intimidated by the Jewish leaders, who had already decided that anyone who took a stand that this was the Messiah would be kicked out of the meeting place. That’s why his parents said, “Ask him. He’s a grown man.”)

24 They called the man back a second time—the man who had been blind—and told him, “Give credit to God. We know this man is an imposter.”

25 He replied, “I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure: I was blind . . . I now see.”

26 They said, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27 “I’ve told you over and over and you haven’t listened. Why do you want to hear it again? Are you so eager to become his disciples?”

28-29 With that they jumped all over him. “You might be a disciple of that man, but we’re disciples of Moses. We know for sure that God spoke to Moses, but we have no idea where this man even comes from.”

“Did you write this?” he says to me; oblivious to the information at the top of the screen; adding “Why do the sentences have numbers?”

You throw a question back to him, “Did you like the story?”

“The guy that healed the blind man seems to be in trouble for doing it, but the blind man seems to be in trouble, too for getting healed. It’s like something good happened, but everybody’s afraid to admit it.”

He’s got that part right. Then the question of the day: “Did the guy who could heal the blind man do anything else in the story?”

For twenty minutes, your nephew is your captive. You tell him that it’s not just a story. You tell him some of the bigger picture. You tell him about incarnation. You tell him about the cross

He downloads the app…

You might not think about your smartphone’s Bible app when you’re waiting for all the relatives to arrive at Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or the family reunion, or the engagement party; so they can get on with serving the dinner.

But it can be a tremendous tool in a moment like this, especially where people who would never read a Bible are seeing pages from the Bible for the first time.

Imagine what could happen.

I just did.

 

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