The medium is the message
was a phrase coined by the media guru Marshal Mcluhan in 1964…
in his most widely known book,
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
It caught on!
Sleek American evangelists with million dollar empires pontificating about the poor…it’s hard to take them seriously. The medium is the message…
Ghandi with only a spinning wheel and a white linen cloak speaks
And we listen.
The medium is the message.
Pope Francis eschews his flash car and arrives in a Fiat 500
The medium is the message…
long before the idea was introduced by Mcluhan,
The ancient prophets of Israel embodied it, lived it out,
With daring and outrageous courage they demonstrated for all to see and consider the
meaning of the famous "McLuhan Equation
The medium is the message.
There was nothing they would not do
No barrier they would not sending crashing
No awkward question they would hesitate to ask..
And no social norm they were not prepared
to stand on its head
If only they could get the people of Israel
To listen to what they were saying…!!
Whatever it took
Wherever it took them
They would search for a way
To get their message across
In symbolic gesture…
They had a word from the Lord
And this stiff-necked, stubborn people
Had to get it -
Get the message.
And so God told Ezekiel to shave his beard and to cut the hair of his head with a razor and a knife and divide the cut hair into three parts. Next God commanded, “Thou shalt burn with fire a third part…cut up a third, scatter it to the wind…
A third of your people will die from sickness and hunger in the city a third will be
cut down by swords outside the city
and I will scatter the other third to the four winds
The prophet Isaiah, the orginal naked rambler - who stripped off all his clothes and wandered around naked for three years!!
Those who put their trust in Sudan and Egypt instead of trusting the Lord will be led off into captivity naked and broken
Or Jeremiah, going Commando..
who not only hid his underwear in a rock but then went back to retrieve it after a “long time” (Jeremiah 13).
As the hidden undergarments rotted in the rain…so the people will find their pride destroyed…
Jeremiah apparently didn’t mind parting with under garments, but he couldn’t be separated from the cattle yoke he had fastened to his shoulders until another prophet broke it off (Jeremiah 27 and 28).
Better for Israel to endure the yoke of oppression from Babylon for a time than to be destroyed utterly…
Yet another eyebrow-raiser was Hosea, who deliberately married a prostitute and had to deal with her adulterous habits (Hosea 1).
As Hosea feels the pain of constant betrayal by the one who should be faithful to him, so God feels the hurt of his adulterous people as they run after false gods and embrace idolatry
For these remarkable ancient prophets of Israel…
The medium was the message – big time!!
We’re all at it!
Sending messages…delivering messages…
wanting to be heard…
trying to “get our message across.”
Perhaps we’re discovering the joy of text…
Happily hurrying to send off a batch of e-mails…
while our mobile phone is clutched
like the security blanket it has become.
At the same time, all around us, other people are doing their level best to get across their messages…
through adverts…on television
on the car-radio – on huge, unmissable bill-boards.
Wherever you go, there they will be –
people pushing their message onto you…
whether it’s at the cinema…flyers through the door,
cold calling when you’re at your tea…always at your tea!
and even –no opportunity too small to be taken……
car-parking tickets…inviting you to try this Italian restaurant
Everyone promoting their product, selling their idea…
fan-faring their latest offer.
Never mind love, messages are all around us.
I’ve actually heard that some people even write letters!!
It’s become one of the identifying characteristics of the times we live in
Everyone has a message
that they want to communicate.
That preponderance of buzzing voices and
signals which throng the air
has the effect, however, of making people suspicious,
slightly cynical about who’s plugging what, and why?
And there is mistrust of the messenger who comes
with an agenda –
or worse, with an obvious inconsistency
between who they are -
and what they are saying.
In the general thinking
there is merit in the Mcluhan Equation
“The medium is the message.”
Discontinuity between the message and the messenger
That was the disturbing thing about Christ…
for his time and his generation…
as he begins his ministry
and reveals its character and essence;
for Christ was both the messenger…and the message;
and there was no inconsistency…no discrepancy…no dissonance
between who he was and what he said.
His life- and his truth - allowed no separation.
See him, and see the truth.
Look for the truth - and find him.
This was the reality he presented… the conundrum his life posed.
A recent survey revealed that
was the most looked up word in the dictionary .
It is certainly a valued quality, in a world grown calloused by disappointments –
as this politician, or that,
this religious figure, or that,
this cult hero, or that –
has been discovered to be a fraud; a liar,
someone who says one thing…and lives another…
And people have grown tired of that inconsistency…
finding it inexcusable…
People value above all things –
connectedness between word and deed…
integrity in how folk deal with other folk.
And it is a challenge to demonstrate integrity that
rings in the ears of the church –
no less than it was a requirement of her Lord,
if his message was to have any currency in the world he lived in.
That consistency has to be there for the church -
as it was the Lord of the Church.
Of course, we understand,
and, anyone with a sense of fairness, and an awareness of how time and history, circumstance and human folly, can erode idealism, will also understand,
that, perhaps, it was easier for the early church:
it was spared all the long dangerous years of accumulated baggage, stupidity and accidental shifts of emphasis
that assaulted the innocence of the faith
over the long centuries that make up two thousand years.
It would be naïve indeed for anyone to imagine that the church could have held on to the purity of its core message, untrammelled and uncorrupted by two thousand years of
thought, change and upheaval.
Of course it added stuff…
Of course, it allowed what was peripheral and accidental,
to occupy centre stage and begin to matter…
so much so that, sometimes,
the core message of the church got lost along the way…
For the Early Church – it was all so much simpler.
The message was Jesus Christ…and the summons to follow him.
That was certainly the message of Jesus himself -
No great theological tomes to be carted about.
No accumulated wisdom of the professors
and the shifting fashions of the theologians.
Follow me. Simple.
Terrifying – but simple.
And for the early church it was just as simple
And just as terrifying.
All the rest is what we have done to the essential simplicity
of the call to faith…
And over the centuries,
because of people and their pre-occupations,
because of people and their prejudices…
the church has more often than not proved to be
a rather inadequate and shabby messenger…
Not least because it has persisted in being divided…
its ancient divisions a denial of the oneness of the Spirit
and the purpose of Christ.
It has all too often allowed itself to become
shamelessly preoccupied with its own life
playing political power games
and gazing in rapt fascination at its own navel…
in a most unattractive way.
And so it has allowed itself to be distracted from its core task
of mission and service –
preferring to become increasingly
indistinguishable from the world.
All too often, the vibrant church of Jesus,
With its powerful summons to all the people to follow him…
has presented itself to the world as
hesitant, foot-dragging, half-hearted, lukewarm, silent…
losing ground, anachronistic and irrelevant…
Whereas, it was actually called into being to be
We could beat ourselves up about those many failures
and shoddy compromises
And maybe we should…a little:
But the truth is -
For all that…
We are still the messengers…!!!
No one else telling his story – giving him his place.
Announcing his glory…
The Church of Jesus may be a pretty
grubby bride…in Cinderella tatters…
suffering from some kind of multi-personality disorder
unsure whether the Church of Jesus Christ is really,
Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian.
Confused, torn with internal wranglings and contradictions…
yes, the Church may be a poor wee bauchle of a bride…
She is loved and precious.
We are loved and precious…
However inadequate we may feel or be.
We simply need to rediscover and reaffirm
Our central message
And demonstrate through our unity of purpose and spirit
That our concerns are
Not our buildings –
· lives transformed…
· broken spirits restored
· and people who were lost and have been found.
When we can remind ourselves that our purpose is not
to rehearse the old suspicions
and hide behind the barricades of our theologically encircled wagons…
but together to reach out with the call of the gospel to the communities entrusted to our ministry together…
then we get back to basics.
Then we remember whose church this is,
and why it is called into being.
And it was certainly not so that we could exhaust our energies
squabbling over whose liturgy is purest and truest
and what form of church government is
“the nearest to the Biblical ideal…”
and who has control of the Lord’s Table –
and can decide who should be allowed to be there
to receive the Sacrament
and who shouldn’t.
Our declaration is simple, searching and clear.
We preach Christ. Crucified and Risen…
He calls men and women to follow him.
And the church is charged with that gospel.
Nothing else matters more.
Nothing else should be allowed to usurp that high calling.
That is why we are here.
Entrusted with the message.
Let’s seek the grace and spirit of God
To ensure that the message is heard
And the messengers don’t get in the way.