Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Medium is the Message

Pentecost 10 year C Sermon Media Prayer Day 
Acts 17:16 – 34
Today, throughout the country, Christians of all denominations are taking a few moments… to pray for the spread of the Gospel … through New Zealand’s media…and to pray for Christians …working in all forms of mass media.

Today all NZ Christians have a unique opportunity to join in prayer for their fellow-Christians in television, radio, film, electronic media and print. Since it began in the year 2000 …Media
Prayer Day… has had the support of denominational leaders across the Christian spectrum. This call to prayer is supported by our Moderator… Dr. Graham Redding.

The day has real meaning for me because for 17 years I was a Christian working for Television New Zealand . I can recall praying with other Christians in the film editing booths at Avalon Studios. In those days I was an anonymous Christian in the media. And you may wonder why…
well sometimes it pays to keep a low profile.

Because when a Christian in the media falls…the crash is heard around the nation and around the world. An example is the Producer and Director of the Passion of the Christ…
Mel Gibson whose recent abusive outbursts…
have been broadcast for all to hear.

But we can be proud of those who identify publically as Christians in the New Zealand media…people like weather presenter Jim Hickey, front woman Petra Baguust or current affairs journalist Rob Harley.
But we have
among us… someone who’s been a Christian in the media far longer than any one of them
we have Bartha Hill.
Bartha was born in Holland and immigrated to New Zealand in 1954. She’s a longtime… freelance journalist… researcher… and writer. As far as the mass media is concerned… Bartha’s work… has appeared in the ODT and in Woman’s Weekly. And she’s is a regular contributor to national Christian publications.

And for the past eight
years… amidst all her other writing and family responsibilities…Bartha’s exercised her gifts… as the editor of our parish Newsletter. Sadly for us… Graham and Bartha are shifting to Dunedin in August…
to be closer to their
family. Happily for us Helen Brooke has offered to take over.

Bartha would you come forward…
to give us a taste… of what the journey has been like?

1.      How have things changed for Christians in the media over the past forty years.
2.      Most rewarding thing about writing for the mainstream media.
3.      What was the most difficult assignment/project.
4.      Tell me about the times what you wanted to say from a faith perspective has been challenged by secular editors.
5.      How did you handle it.
6.      Your proudest moment. [Give flowers]

Now let us continue our prayers for others…
especially for Christians in the media.

Beloved God we ask for strength of faith and integrity for Christians who work in television, radio, print, film, advertising, marketing and on the web – for presenters, writers and editors, directors, producers and media managers. We pray for those whose names are well known but also for those behind the scenes. We pray that media gatekeepers - who make editorial decisions… which allow a Christian perspective or prevent a Christian voice being heard. Whether they know you or not we pray they will be open to your guidance. And we pray for all those who work within Christian television, radio, film, electronic media and print…that through the work of all these…
your will… will be done. In Jesus name AMEN.

Acts 17:16 – 34
There’s a very good story in the book of Acts about how the Apostle Paul uses the mass media to get the message of the Gospel across almost 2000 years ago. It goes like this…

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he debated this in the synagogue with the Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace…
day by day with anyone who happened to be there. 

One day a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, "What’s this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 
Then they took him and brought him to a meeting on the Rock of Ares', in the shadow of the Acropolis, which functioned as seat of the high Court of Appeal for criminal and civil cases in Athens. Here they interogated Paul.

"May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?  You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean." 

And Luke the author of Acts… ads here as an aside
(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there…
spent their time doing nothing but talking about and
listening to the latest ideas.)
Paul then stood up to address the meeting of the Areopagus "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.  For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
"The God who made the world and everything in it…
is the creator of heaven and earth and doesn’t
live in temples. God isn’t served by human hands, as if he needs anything, because God gives all men life and breath and
else.  From one human being God made every nation… that they should inhabit the whole earth;
God did this so humankind would
seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him…though he’s not far…
from each
one of us. 'For as some of your own poets have said…in him we live and move and have our being.'
'We are his offspring.'

And since
we’re God's offspring, we shouldn’t think the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made from human design and skill.
In the past God overlooked such ignorance…but now he commands all people everywhere to turn to him. 
For he’s set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he’s appointed.  And God has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead."

Now when they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject."  At that, Paul left the Council…
and Luke adds: A few became followers of Paul and believed.

Paul used all the media available to him... to communicate the gospel…which is the Greek word for good news…

In Athens he used the medium familiar to the people…
the alters and sculpture of civic religion...finding one to an unknown god…the same way Jesus used parables of everyday life to communicate to the people he met…

To chide and guide the infant church …Paul wrote letters. Letter which were copied and distributed widely.

Never before in history had conditions been more
perfect communicating across long distances… a sophisticated network of roads allowed the Romans to move armies and trade goods and to communicate news essential for the growth of the Empire.

When Rome reached the height of its power, no fewer than 29 great military highways radiated from the city.
In building their Empire the Roman’s had constructed a medium of communication that had never before existed a medium which would allow the spread of the Gospel.

So you can see that what media exist for the communication of the Gospel changes dramatically over time.
St Francis of Assisi said ‘in communicating the gospel use words only when necessary.’ He considered acts of mercy and compassion by Jesus’ followers… to be by far
the greatest means for communicating Jesus’ teaching.

Our own behaviour is one of the most powerful media we have to help people understand the good news of Jesus and what it means to follow him. And when Christians have access to mass media… like television radio and films…
our actions and words reach whole populations.

Some of us believe the heart of the Gospel message is…
that the creator of the
universe… loves us and wants a relationship with us…and to communicate this to us…
God used his
son as the medium…to act out God’s love
for us…sacrificially… in life and in death.

Today when we act out his teaching… as the body of Christ spanning the globe… we are a form of mass media.
So let us take great care… every
moment in days ahead…
that it’s
love compassion mercy forgivenss and peace…that we communicate in every sphere.

In Christ our Saviour…the medium is the ultimate message.