Digital Spirituality

Like most people these days, I have a mobile phone and use it for all kinds of things. There are the standard apps such as text messaging, email, news services, various “how to I get there” direction services, and the list goes on. Then we get into the specialty apps that are particular to your work, your interests, and avocations minor and grand. I have the iBreviary app on my phone/tablet. Can’t remember the last time I used the hard copy book. Its easy access has let me be far more consistent in the rhythms of daily prayer.

To say mobile devices are ubiquitous even seems like an understatement. Not only are mobile devices omnipresent, they have become de rigueur, mandatory, obligatory, universal, endemic, rampant….and I think I ran out of words. Admit it, when you want to get in touch with someone and they can’t instantly share their contact information using near-field technology, you begin to imagine a 21st century Luddite that might actually want to write the information down on a piece of paper for you.

My mobile phone tells me how much time I spend on it, which really is not too much. Yesterday my largest use was iBreviary. In a distant second place was a virtual tie between test message and email apps. Teens spend 7 hours and 22 minutes on their phones largely connected to the ubiquitous (there’s that word again) social media apps in all its variety and instances. By comparison I am carrying around a paper weight in my pocket.

We shouldn’t be so surprised. After all, at heart we are social beings. But all kinds of energies can be drained down the rabbit hole chasing what’s trending. But then all kinds of good can come about connecting with people/articles/sites that – before were unreachable – and now are a click away. Either way it affects your spirituality.

Take a deep dive into the internet searching for something akin to “cell phones spirituality” and you might be surprised by what turns up. There are a whole range of blogs discussing the meaning of the appearance of cell phones in your dreams. One of the blogs wrote: “God communicates with us through various ways, and that may sometimes come through a cell phone dream.” ….OK…but just because the birds don’t talk to me doesn’t mean they don’t talk.

Refining the query, here are results from a query about cell phones and one’s spiritual life.

  • 7 Ways Smartphones Can Enhance Your Spiritual Life
  • 3 Ways Smartphones Affect Your Spiritual Life – Southern Equip
  • The Spiritual Dangers of Smartphones
  • 5 Ways Your Phone Is Stealing Your Life (and How to Stop It)
  • Smartphone Addiction and Our Spiritual ADD
  • Cell Phone Spirituality: What your cell phone can teach you about life and God.
  • 10 Ways Phones Can be Used for Our Good and God’s Glory

Clearly there are admonishments, warning, encouragement and offered wisdom about you, your cell phone, and your spiritual life. Just something I was musing about on my day off.

Advice for the hosts

This coming Sunday is the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time.  In yesterday’s post we explored the cultural norms associated with invitations, banquets and places of honor as regards the invited guests.  Today we will continue that line of thought and consider Jesus’ advice to hosts.

Just as Jesus’ fellow guests had occupied themselves in normal, honor-seeking pursuits upon arrival at the meal, so Jesus’ host had followed ordinary conventions in putting together his invitation list. Invitations served as “currency in the marketplace of prestige and power” [Green, 552] for those whose framework was the world as we know it. Seen through the framework of the Kingdom of God, a different currency is the “gold standard.”

Jesus expands the picture of humility by exhorting his audience to invite to their dinner table the needy and those who cannot repay such kindness. Hospitality should be open to all. This kind of reversal of expectations and status is thematic in Luke (e.g., 1:52; 6:20-26; 18:14). In fact, in the very next passage, our meal story continues with Jesus reemphasizing the notion of inviting the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind (14:21), this time in a parable representing the eschatological banquet of God, which will include just such marginalized ones, with the “invited guest list” being left out (14:24).

Jesus admonishes that, whether at the early meal/lunch (ariston) or the main evening meal (deipnon), hospitality should be shown not to the rich and famous nor to family members, but to those who cannot repay the favor. In ancient culture, the one who hosted a festive meal, as today, would be placed on the invitation list for future meals at the guests’ homes. Jesus argues that such “payback” hospitality has no merit. The best hospitality is given, not simply exchanged in a kind of unspoken social contract.

Tannehill writes about this section (Luke, 230):

A formal dinner was a way in which an elite family (the kind of family who could afford such a dinner) proclaimed and maintained its elite status. The guest list was important, for the invitation indicated that one was accepted as a member of the elite. Family members and important people of the community needed to be honored in this way, and they would be expected to reciprocate. Jesus’ instructions in verses 12-14 conflict with this social function of dinners. It might be a source of honor for someone to give charity to the poor, but it is quite another thing to invite them to a social function in place of family and people of wealth, and eat with them. By doing this, the host is dishonoring family and rich neighbors and in their place is honoring the poor; or, in the eyes of the elite, the host is dishonoring himself by identifying with the poor. Therefore, verse 11 may apply to what follows as well as to what precedes. Those who invite family and people of status are exalting themselves by proclaiming their place in this group. Those who invite the poor and crippled are humbling themselves.

If God reaches out to all, then those who seek to honor God should reach out also. So the poor, crippled, the lame, the blind should be invited. (This list looks much like the list of Luke 7:22, with a few differences; it is repeated in Luke 14:21.) The poor and the powerless should be welcome. It is in this manner that one more and more becomes servant and thus disciple.

The point is that in doing good we should serve freely, without regard for our own prospects, leaving the recompense to God. This is the way Jesus went about doing good, emptying himself for others without counting the cost. There is Semitic exaggeration in the statement that one should not invite friends, relatives, and neighbors. The kingdom is for everyone, and our hospitality is to embrace all, especially those who are overlooked by most people.

Image: A Place of Honor According to Jeshua from