Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY
A few years ago there was an AT&T commercial about their network. Two friends are driving in a car talking about the power of the internet. One of them lifts up the network as a place where folks can to go share creativity and ideas, but as the moment wraps up he boasts of the 100 likes he got on his latest selfie.
Anyone remember that commercial? Some of you may. What makes it most memorable is not simply how funny it is, but how much truth there is to it. We have this internet, this network which is a beautiful place where people are connected and can share knowledge and ideas, and what do we do with it? We post selfies and count likes.
There’s a growing fear that social media platforms are creating an obsession with digital affirmation (people “liking” your stuff). Furthermore, science is showing us that people may be becoming addicted to gratification that comes from people liking their posts.
Here’s what I think about that: Duh. Of course. This is happening. And it’s scary. So folks go on the attack against social media… on social media. And we do need to pay attention to how we are using it. But, here’s the thing we must remember: social media (alone) isn’t the problem. Blaming social media alone is like blaming needles for the heroin epidemic. It’s the vehicle. And when we just attack social media, then we are able to conveniently sidestep the actual issue.
And the actual issue is that we find our worth in all of the wrong places. And we let all the wrong things tell us how good we are. It’s obvious on social media where we can literally count how many people “like” our latest video of our dog jumping in the snow, but it’s other places too.
We let our bodies tell us how good we are. When you think about what you eat, anyone else more concerned with whether or not it will make you fat than how it will affect your health? Because we find value and self worth in being skinny.
We seek our worth in all the wrong places. Some folks look for it in money. Some folks look for it in bad relationships. Social media is just the latest (and very serious) place we give the power to tell us our worth. And it like all the rest, will prove it’s superficial (if it hasn’t already).
But the funny thing about our quest, is that we are searching for something we have had all along. You don’t need to go find your worth, because God has already named you worthy. When Jesus was baptized as he came up out of the water the heavens tore open and voice spoke, saying, “This is my son, I love him, With him I am well pleased.” And in the waters of baptism, God speaks the same three words to us. We are children of God. We are loved. And in us, God is well pleased.
It’s why God sent Jesus without waiting for us to demonstrate our worth. While we were sinners, God sent Jesus to die for us. Because in God’s eyes, we were worth it. It’s why Jesus in his ministry welcomes all people. He defends prostitutes. Eats with tax collectors and sinners. Touches lepers. He gives the Samaritan woman at the well living water. Heals the children of the Syrophonecian woman and Roman Solider. Society said all of those people were unworthy. They were lacking something. Jesus said, “Come here.”
Society may try to tell you that you are lacking something. Jesus still says come here. Come to the water, come to the table, come to him… just as you are. And when we come we hear out loud God’s baptismal promises in our lives. We are children of God. We are loved. In us, God is well pleased.
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