Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…
It really was not complicated. It was quite simple. Thanks to Covid-19 uncertainty, I needed to cancel a reservation and rebook on another date. How simple is that? I tried online, but there were a host of unanswered questions. If I canceled online before rebooking would I lose my money, would rebooking fees apply when the Canadian government is denying entry into the country? I asked for help and the next thing you know I was engaged in a virtual chat with some artificial intelligence, and though the encounter felt authentically artificial, there was nothing about it that seemed remotely intelligent. After being asked the same question four times, I insulted the intelligence of artificial intelligence, and picked up my phone to hear a voice that was connected to a brain that could reason.
The phone rang and rang; I considered hanging up and then (Hallelujah chorus!) I was greeted by a virtual person who mechanically led me through a series of prompts. Four minutes a later, with a callous on my pointing finger, I was on my way to a real customer service agent, one with a family, a person with travel experience, compassionate and caring flesh and blood. The elevator music played for 23 minutes and 17 seconds as I waited patiently, occasionally using theological language inappropriately. “Hello, this is Cassie, and who do I have the pleasure of speaking to today?” Cassie was in Kentucky; she had a sweet voice and was happy to help me. “In order to make your change Mr. Lindus we will need to charge you $11.28 and then you will be refunded $4.13 which will be put in your wallet and can be used for one year from the date of the original purchase.”
It was not complicated. It was quite simple, until it wasn’t. I had no idea how they had come up with the formula; why they could not have just charged me $7.15 is beyond me, but I quickly agreed to pay the $11.28 in order to end this hostage situation. Cassie was doing her job, she had served me well, she was polite and helpful. “You will want to print out a copy of the receipt and take it with you, Mr. Lindus.” Did I mention that my new printer won’t allow me to print, and though there are at least 4 more printers in our church office, none of them speak the same language as my laptop?
None of this amounts to a hill of beans! These are the first-world problems of an impatient, entitled, grey-haired tenderfoot who never would have made it on the Oregon Trail. So, what it the point of reading this? Why did you open this email or check in with me on Facebook? My point is not complicated; in fact, like the author, it is quite simple. There is nothing simple or uncomplicated in this fast paced, often impersonal world. But when we finally have an encounter with a human being, it is a sacred encounter with a child of God, a sister whose life has been on hold, a brother who has been depressed, or lonely, or grieving, those who are afraid of living, the young who are anxious about the future, or the old who face the end of life not so far removed from the shame of the past. Every human being is fragile, one unkind remark away from being exposed in the insecurity that is a part of our DNA.
Jesus kept it simple. Forget those 613 religious laws; religious people are good at making laws to justify themselves. Keep it simple, just love! Love God, love your neighbor, and learn to love the one who looks back at you in the mirror.
I will see you online or I will see you in Church!