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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


2007-07-01 Luke 6:27-38 "Reboot"
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church USA

As many of you know, in my previous life I wrote software for a living. So, now from time to time I get called on to do Computer Ministry. It's a specialized branch of Pastoral Care. If you've ever had a computer crash, or if you've ever had one freeze up when you're doing something really important - like, updating your MySpace page - you know the stress, yea verily, the Biblical rage you feel toward this innocent-looking little machine. Two minutes ago, it was your best friend, your servant, your "personal" computer. Now it's satan incarnate. Because you know it ought to work, and it makes you feel so angry and inadequate. So you call your pastor. It's OK. I'm trained in this stuff. Usually the computer problems are fixable. The emotional scars take longer. That's why I'm here.

Some computer problems really do require technical expertise. But here's the secret they don't tell you when you buy the darn thing - you can fix any computer problem by turning it off, and... keeping it that way. If you're feeling brave, you can turn it back on again. But really you're just setting yourself up for more problems. Honestly, most computer problems can be solved by doing a Restart. Or by pressing and holding the Off button until it turns off and then turning it back on again. Or by unplugging it, having a cup of decaf, and then starting over. Computer geeks have a technical term for it. We call it "reboot."

When you do a reboot on a computer, it forgets. It wipes the memory clean. The computer starts out fresh again, with no knowledge that two minutes ago it had frustrated you to the point of murderous delirium. It just goes, "Bong," and then says, "Welcome," as if for the very first time. You might still be seething, but it's saying, "Dave, you sound angry. Perhaps you'd like some cocoa." Reboot.

Jesus never used a computer. Which may explain his sweet disposition. Jesus never used a computer. But he understood Biblical rage. He knew the very human mix of emotions that most of us feel when something doesn't work when we know it should. Two parts anger, two parts inadequacy, shaken up and boiling. Jesus knew the lasting sting of emotional scars. He knew how a desperate search for solutions makes people ready to turn their hearts off, and not turn them back on again. You don't have to use a computer to know these feelings. You get these feelings just by living and by trying to interact with people. People who sometimes are your best friends, and then sometimes just freeze up. Or crash. Or die. You wonder, "What happened? Five minutes ago everything was just fine. And now...." And now, what do you do?

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”

You see, here's the thing about computers. Even after it's eaten your term paper, even after you've spent an hour talking to tech support in India, you go back to it, right? Either you find a solution, or you buy a Mac (sorry, couldn't resist), and you go back to it. Because you know, no matter how “personal” you think your computer is, the problems it causes you aren't personal. No matter how much you imagine it saying, “Oh, here comes Sharon again. Wake up all you sleepy viruses!” -- it doesn't really. It's just a dumb machine. It can't help itself.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

How ungrateful and wicked we must seem to God. How frustrating, how much like satan incarnate we must seem to God. So God has a choice. God can smash us, wipe us all out like he did with Noah and the flood. Or, God can walk away and start over on some other planet. Leave the earth until the viruses take over. Or, God can do something else.

Praise be that God chose something else. God saw ungrateful, wicked, frustrating people. And instead of destroying or ignoring us, God came to us. God lived as Jesus Christ. Jesus lived. Jesus died. Jesus was crucified and buried beneath the earth. And then God lifted him up to a new life. And in the Resurrection of Jesus, God lifted all of us into new life.

God did a “reboot.” In the Resurrection of Christ, God turned off who we used to be, and restarted us, with a clean slate. We're version 2.0 of humanity, and we don't even know it. God declared that we're different now, because Jesus is different now, and we're part of him in new life, just as he was part of us on earth.

But here's where the analogy breaks down. After this Resurrection restart, our memories aren't wiped out. We're born again with Christ, but we still remember who we used to be. God assures of us our pardon from sin, but the damaging viruses are still with us. God said, “Reboot!” but we're still running the same old programs, still visiting the same malicious sites, still loading ourselves up with the same old garbage. You might ask, “What's the difference?”

The difference is that now we know. The difference is that now we know we've been restarted to a resurrection life. Now we know the choice God made for us – not to throw us out, not to abandon us. Now we know God has chosen to keep us. So now we can start living that way. We can choose to accept ourselves – our new selves – just as God chooses to accept us. And, what's more, we can choose to accept other people just as God chooses to accept us. We can choose to reboot our reactions to ungrateful, wicked, frustrating people, just as God chose to redefine God's views.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Unplug yourself from the life you can't escape. Through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ God has rebuilt you. Live as that new person. Reboot.