He Said, “Follow Me”

This morning’s sermon!  Here is the link to the blog post that I talked about at the beginning.  Enjoy!

John 1:43-51

He Said, “Follow Me”

Last year, Apple, Inc. announced that they would be releasing an updated version of the beloved iPhone, the iPhone 4S. This phone would be the first of its kind to include a virtual person inside of it, fondly known by many as Siri (spelled S-I-R-I), that actually interacts with you. Siri responds to your voice to send messages, call contacts, look at your calendar, search the Internet and then talks back to you in conversation. The first commercials talked about how Apple had created an entirely new way of interacting with your iPhone.

As a self-proclaimed lover of all things Apple, I was intrigued by this new piece of technology. But as someone who is in the business of people, I was simultaneously sort of horrified that our society had reached a point where we were more interested in interacting with technology than with people.

Fast forward to this past Thursday, when I came across a blog post of a popular mommy-blogger named Melanie, who blogs under the pseudonym, “Big Mama.” The tagline for her blog, “The Big Mama Blog”, says, “Random stories of life, laughter, and raising a child in Texas.” She tells tales of her husband, who she calls, “P”, her daughter Caroline and her best friend Gulley. Her quick wit and not-so-subtle sarcasm entertains me on a daily basis.
This particular post was titled, “There’s a Sirious {S-I-R-I-O-U-S} lack of communication.” I had a feeling we would be addressing Apple’s latest gadget.

Melanie wrote:

And this is a subject that falls squarely in the category of FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS.

My new iPhone.

It was sometime in mid-November that I realized my old phone was on its last legs. Mainly because anytime I’d turn it off it acted like it wasn’t going to turn on again. And this sent me into a panic because WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE A PHONE IN MY POSSESSION AT ALL TIMES? WHAT IF SOMEONE NEEDS ME AND CAN’T GET ME? OR WORSE, HOW WILL I PLAY WORDS WITH FRIENDS?

So I decided it was time to get a new phone. More specifically, it was time for me to have my own personal assistant in the form of Siri. Because I am very busy with the two or three things I have on my calendar each week and a social schedule that consists of going out one night every two months.

I skipped out of the Apple store with my new phone in hand and immediately asked Siri to text P on his cell and let him know I got my new phone. And she did it. I got a text from him a few minutes later that asked, “Is this you or Siri?” I told Siri to text “Siri”. And she did it. Then he asked if the dishes in the dishwasher were clean or dirty and I told Siri to text that they were dirty. Except she texted “They’re DARTY”.

Oh that Siri. Making fun of my accent and we’ve only known each other a few minutes.
But that should’ve been my first clue.

When I picked Caroline up from school that day she was thrilled to learn about Siri. I explained that you can ask Siri questions like “How is the weather?” and she’d answer. And so Caroline spent the next few hours SCREAMING things into my phone at poor Siri … And Siri would say, “I don’t understand”. … Siri did her best to answer Caroline … but everyone has their limit. Then I read that Siri gets used to the sounds and intonations of her owner’s voice over time and begins to understand requests better. And I lamented to Gulley that I was concerned Caroline had screwed up Siri forever with all that screaming and bizarre line of questioning because Siri and I seemed to have increasing difficulty communicating.

I’d ask questions that had been weighing on me such as, “Siri, why are the Kardashians famous?”

And she’d say, “I do not understand Kardashian.”

“Me either, Siri. What’s the deal?”

“I do not understand the deal.”

Then came the day when I said, “Siri, call Gulley on her cell.”

She responded, “I do not see a Deli in your listings.”

“NO, SIRI. CALL GULLEY CELL.”

“Okay. Calling P.F. Changs.”

What {in the world}?

Then one of my friends on Facebook posted a cute exchange she had with her Siri. She told Siri “Thank you” and Siri said, “No problem, Mary. It’s my pleasure.”

This caused me to develop a complex that maybe the problems between Siri and me were because I neglected to tell her thank you. Maybe other people’s Siris liked them better than mine liked me. Maybe Siri thought I was rude and ungrateful. And because I am neurotic I actually conveyed this concern to Gulley who said, “There are enough problems in the world without people worrying about telling their phone ‘Thank you’.” … I tried to thank Siri the next time she texted something to P for me and she responded with “I don’t know THANK YOU”. And really she was lucky I thanked her in the first place because her spelling was atrocious and she only understood half my words and I had to call P and explain that we were having chili for dinner and not “jelly”.

And Gulley thought all of this was hilarious and loved to kid me about worrying that Caroline had been a bad influence on Siri and corrupted her from the very beginning or that Siri’s feelings were hurt because I didn’t appreciate her.

But on Christmas morning Gulley opened up a brand new iPhone of her own. She set the whole thing up, synced all her information and then, eager to try out Siri for herself, said, “Siri, call my mom”.

Siri replied, “I don’t know you and I don’t know your mom.” …

I couldn’t help but laugh. And, in a strange way, when I re-read the post for Bruce later on in the day, the first thing to pop into my mind was this morning’s Gospel reading. Every time I read this particular passage, I never get too far before I stop because the very beginning resonates so deeply in me. The first verse of this passage, John 1:43 says, “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’”
Follow me.

Two words: So simple, yet so powerful.

Follow me.

I think these days we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to communicate. That is, after all, what it means to be relational beings, right? We need to learn how to communicate in our marriages, in our families and in our friendships otherwise those relationships break down. We have to learn how to communicate with our coworkers or we will not be able to do our jobs well. We are covenanting together to learn how to communicate here at this church so that we can grow and be healthier. Team sports are built on the foundation of communication. If players don’t communicate, teams don’t win. We are relational beings; communication is at the core of who we are.

As an evolving human race, we are obsessed with finding new and better ways to communicate with one another. Letters to and from our friends and family have become emails. Phones calls have become text messages and video chats. Less and less we are relying on face-to-face communication and more on technological communication.

So it is only natural that eventually the technology would start to communicate back.

But let’s be honest, it is kind of confusing.

The other day I was driving home and trying to ask my “Siri-less” iPhone (which only has basic voice recognition, it is very stone age) to call Miguel Giron, who runs the Children’s Rescue Mission. I kept saying, “Call Miguel Giron,” but the phone did not understand the Honduran name and called everybody else on my contact list until I figured out how to pronounce his name, not the right way, but in a way that my iPhone would understand so it would make the call. By the time the phone started ringing, I could not remember why I was calling him to begin with.

I think at that point I had crossed over the line into the world of ridiculous; because communicating should not be that complicated. Jesus never made communicating that complicated. Jesus simply said, “Follow me.”

Two words: Follow me.

There is a Franciscan Priest named Richard Rohr, who said, “Jesus didn’t say ‘worship me,’ he said ‘follow me!'” That is poignant. We spend so much time on earth trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong, who is right and who is wrong, how we are supposed to worship and how we are supposed to run our churches, our families, our schools or our countries. We are furiously advancing our technologies so that we can be better. But, in the end, does it really matter? Are we journeying towards a destination? Or are we just simply supposed to journey?

The message was clear: Follow me.

Jesus did not say, “Can you hear me now?” Jesus did not say, “Siri, call Philip and tell him to follow me.” Jesus did not send a mass text or email. Jesus simply said, “Follow me.”

So I cannot help but wonder: Is our response supposed to be any more complicated than that?

I know we live in a really fast-paced society. I know that it is hard not to jump in and use all of the technologies that are available to us – and I am not saying that we should not use them. But I do think that sometimes we are looking for the truth in all of the wrong places. I think that our lives are busy and filled with a lot of stuff. I think that we are always seeking out more.

And I think we should take that simple message that Jesus spoke that day and listen to him speaking it to us today. And then we should embark on a journey.

Jesus said, “Follow me.”

Amen.

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