This might be anathema to other digi-disciples, but I have to be out and proud about the fact that I still have a paper-with-pages Bible. Yes, I also have the very best of Olive Tree, but I have a something that looks like a book, smells much the same and needs dusting from time to time. I won’t mention that it has a floppy black cover, for fear of tarnishing my reputation as a pure-bred anglo-catholic!
My bible is a helpful one too. Not only is it formatted in compulsory dual-column-fully-justified-bugger-to-read style, but it is provided with those very helpful headings that punctuate each book and letter in this library of spiritual works. I sit here with the Book of Job open before me. I cannot count on any great expertise with this text (I probably peaked too early with the Book of Numbers), but the headings that would accompany me are helpful. They are also oddly familiar to anyone with even the most modest experience of Facebook or Twitter.
Job’s life and turmoils are, in the broader sense, well known. He could be construed as one of life’s victims, a vexatious litigant, a serial moaner, the archdeacon of passive aggressive – but his life echoes so many that we witness or experience in the glorious modernity of the twenty-first. He is as we are, hard done-by at times – but it is the punctuating headings that intrigue me. Let me offer you just a few:
Job and his family | Attack on Job’s character | Job loses property and children | attack on Job’s health | Job curses the the day he was born | Eliphaz speaks: Job has sinned | Job is corrected by God | Job replies: My complaint is just | Job: My suffering is without end | Bildad speaks: Job should repent, and so on …
Not only do these section-headings nourish our understanding of the story as it unfolds, but they read with an uncanny resemblance to the stream of consciousness to be found on Twitter or through Facebook status updates. In the days when I spent far too many waking hours on Twitter, for example, I would be caused to look back on an exchange – and the resemblance between what I read there and throughout the text of Job’s book is uncanny.
We have just celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, that great day in which we commemorate the birth of the church – very much the outworking of the Holy Spirit as we would recognise it through our daily lives. The person of the Spirit is often perceived in ways that can be divisive – hard to define, often irrational like the blowing of the breeze, closer to those who claim to experience the gifts of the Spirit so frequently (and indeed routinely), mis-understood by those who misunderstand the sacramentalists and their eplicleses – the Ruach Ha’kodesh that favours them in that church but not us in ours, the pneuma that is the conduit of our own stream of consciousness with a God who so often seems to allow us to experience the pains and burdens of Job.
As my rendering of the text of Job is perforated by Tweets, it strikes me that the social and new media are very much the tools of the Holy Spirit. It is very much the case that The Spirit is the agent of infection for the contagion that is the good news of Jesus Christ, or put more simply (courtesy of Uncle Hippo), the love that passes between. I have been party to and witness to so many digital conversations about faith with people who are as infectious as they are infected with the Gospel. They speak into the silence of the the Ether much as Job did in his many laments, sure of being heard somewhere, and hopeful of reciprocity. I wonder how many people have discovered a relationship with the Lord as a result of a routine Tweet or Facebook status update from an infectious Christian who wondered if they were truly getting it right. I know that I have poured forth in this way myself, with the resultant responses often being in the vein of gratitude for being a priest who is ‘normal’ (oh that that were true) and able to lament the stuff of my faith journey (or effervesce about it as I hope that I did too).
I suppose that the only way that I can close this post, in the Octave of Pentecost, in the power of the Spirit, is simply to place here before you, dear reader, Job’s final ‘Tweet’ – that it may reassure us all who struggle at times:
@Job ‘s Fortunes Are Restored Twofold @kezia @jemima @Keren-happuch #pentecost