The first time I heard about it was when I heard people talking about the “Jesus phone”;
A cellphone with technology so amazing it would be your savior.
Since I am a priest and am naturally curious about saviors
I googled “Jesus phone” and this is what appeared (Show phone).
Yes, the iPhone.
So many of us have a smart phone now that we can forget just how amazing they at first were.
But the thing that really first captivated me,
and one of the ways it truly earned its blasphemous nickname,
is its Maps feature.
Whenever you call up a map, it pinpoints your precise location with a little red pin.
If you want directions to somewhere else,
it gives you a line to guide you on your way,
and as you walk,
that little red pin moves along the line on the map
And it’ melodic voice tells you where to turn.
It always knows where I am!
it always knows where I want to go,
and even shows me how to get there!
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see . . .
. . . no wonder they called it the Jesus phone!
The people the prophet in the first reading was speaking to were Jewish
but they lived exile far from their promised land in a country named Babylon.
How did they get there?
Because they believed they had their own first century version of a smart phone.
It was the temple in Jerusalem.
iii.They believed that as long as they had the temple
then they knew where they were; they were safe in God’s city,
as members of Gods people. No one could ever harm them.
Prophets like Jeremiah had tried to show them that the temple was not enough,
but they were deaf to his warnings
and blind to the gathering signs that they were about to be attacked by the Babylonians.
Eventually Jeremiah was proved right: their temple, their city and their nation were destroyed.
And they were forced to live in Babylon.
Where 50 years later they heard the prophet promise in today’s first reading that God was coming,
And would heal their blindness and cure their deafness.
They believed that that day had come when –miracle of miracles –
a new king permitted them to return to their promised land.
But when they got there,
They founded a destroyed city in a devastated land;
iii.They may have thought it was the Promised Land, all right
– but what a disappointing promise.
10.But then perhaps that is what always happens with smart Phones.
No, not just the ones made by Apple or Samsung; but the ones made by us every day.
Even in a world without computers,
where electricity had not even been harnessed
and most people couldn’t even read,
the people of Israel
consistently looked to things like a temple or a city
for comfort and security, for guidance and protection.
11.Sound familiar? It should. For even those of us who have never held an iPhone in our hands
know our longing for a mother, a father, a husband or a wife,
a home to work on, a job to dedicate our lives to,
a holy book, building or holy person to believe in -
someone or something we place our trust in to give our lives meaning, purpose . . . direction.
12.And yet just as consistently, these things are taken away.
People die. Cars wear out, jobs are lost, even holy people, things, and buildings eventually reveal themselves for what they truly are: things.
Even Smart phones eventually run out of power.
13.But maybe the problem isn’t the iPhone or even our longing for something to use as one.
Maybe the problem is us.
Maybe the prophet was right. We are deaf; we are blind.
Not blind to the things of this world, no we see and hear just fine,
but blind to their meaning.
14.In the Gospels one of the most common miracles Jesus performs is healing.
he restores sight, he cures blindness. He does this in today’s Gospel when he cures a deaf man.
Jesus tells them not to tell anyone
And yet they could not stop talking about it.
15.Why does Jesus tell them NOT to tell anyone?
Because Jesus knows us.
he knows that when they saw his power
they would see him as some kind of powerful king.
And they would follow him,
because they believed he would lead them to safety and security, power, and glory.
he would lead them to where they wanted to go.
16.No wonder he told them to shut up.
17.No wonder they could not.
18.And no wonder they all abandoned him,
as soon as they realized that THEIR “Jesus phone” was leading them,
not to a throne and a kingdom,
but to a cross an a grave.
19.It was all taken away from them.
Just like their kingdom and land was in Jeremiah’s day.
20.Why? Because all they could see and hear
were promises of kingdoms and glory to follow and to trust in,
things that would sooner or later die,
21.and thus, they were blind and deaf to the one
whose resurrection is nothing
if not a promise that he will never die.
and thus he, the REAL Jesus is the only one to look to and follow.
22.Because while an iPhone can safely guide us to where we WANT to go,
23.the one thing it will never be able to do
is guide us to where we SHOULD go.
Only Jesus can do that.
24.And only when we follow him
is our blindness and deafness cured.
25.When we understand this,
then we understand the proper importance of family and friends, jobs and possessions:
they are gifts, companions on our journey through life –
not its purpose and never its goal.
26.Even places like this church we worship in
27.Even books like the Bible we read
28.Even things like the Eucharist we celebrate
29.All of them are meant to be signs, symbols, sacraments of the living presence of Jesus.
They remind us, teach us, and allow us to touch the one
who cures our blindness with the example of his life.
30.That is the reason why,
31.We gather live and physically present in this church this Sunday
32.And why it is so important.
33.For in this time of social distancing, virtual meetings, and livestreamed worship
34.There are so many who would use our anxiety, our anger, our fear
35.To close our ears our minds and our hearts to everything but their own whisperings.
to guide us down dark paths of their choosing.
And lead us to where THEY want us to go.
36.But in this place, when we come with open eyes, open ears, and open hearts
37.we follow Jesus, learn from him, eat him and drink him
38.slowly but surely the way he wants us to go –the only way we should go
39.that way where
anxiety is met with comfort,
anger is met with love,
and fear is met with faith.
will become clear to us.