Twenty minutes before worship on Sunday, I was at home screaming at my printer and the communion table looked like a kitchen counter after thanksgiving dinner. We resolved the communion table issue swiftly but I walked into 701 Waley without a printed manuscript for the first time. In the absence of a real sermon, I was forced to utilize a digital version and my iPad. For all our reliance on technology to save money, streamline registration for church events, communicate with our core group, manage projects, and maintain records, there are a few technological red lines I was determined not to cross at church. I promised myself and a few others forced to listen to my bold but slightly disingenuous claims of being "old-school" about church that we will not use projector screens in worship and that I will not preach from an iPad. On Sunday, my stubborn printer forced me to break one of those pledges.
As I write this post on a newish MacBook Air while listening to Matthew White's new album via Spotify, a 30 year old, baby blue Smith-Corona Coronet Automatic 12 typewriter rests on the right side of my government issue Steel-Case desk. The typewriter is as loud, clunky, and slow, as my computer is quiet, sleek, and fast. But it has soul and it claps clickity-clack, clack, clack back at me as if each key stroke were an accomplishment. The #1 key and the #2 key need to be tuned, but they are fixable. Have you ever had a key pop off your laptop? Good luck trying to snap all the plastic back together!
The desk I mentioned is as old as the typewriter and looks like it was custom made for a drill sergeant or middle school principal that get's it done, year after year, without complaining or talking about what he or she would be doing if they weren't sitting behind this desk. The whole thing, top to bottom, is metal, the drawers are deep, and the desk doesn't care about ergonomics, cable-management, or versatility. It's all desk and will never be used for anything but work. It weighs as much as an entire kitchen from IKEA.
To the left of my ultra-thin computer is my favorite fountain pen, a bright yellow LAMY that glides across the page and get's refilled from an ink blotter that sleeps in drawer #2 beside three other fountain pens. Two of them were gifts from my father who still composes long letters by hand with perfect grammar and silky hand-writing. At one time, I made fun of him for carrying around a small notebook in his front shirt pocket and never leaving home without one of his beloved CROSS ball-points. Now, my nostalgia for old things that make mechanical, not digital, sounds, is confusing my identity. I carry a pen and small notebook everywhere. My desk-top represents a clash of internal aspirations that might be divided evenly and clumsily along generational lines.
Sunday I preached from the iPad because I didn't have any other choice. Yes, I could have printed the night before, but that would have been a short sermon, if you know what I'm saying. And to be sure, I actually liked the experience. I could read my last minute changes that were neatly typed in-line, exactly where they should be, not scribbled in the margins with arrows pointing back to their intended position. I even used an application that scrolled the text slowly and increased the font size to 96pt on a black background. It was easy to read and my pages never got mixed up. The sermon was better for it.
My typewriter and fountain pen are more than ornaments. I use them. But I'll also be using my iPad to preach from now on. It was a change forced on me by circumstance and poor planning. But isn't that how most change occurs?
Rarely are we successful at trying to be as modern and sophisticated or old-school and simple as we think we are and should be. We're all a mixed up reflection of the people, environments, and circumstances that life throws at us. And I'm learning that it's easier to be the mixed up muts that God made us than to strain against our impulses in an attempt to prove an identity of our own making. Was it not God that saidn "I am who I am" in response to Moses' question about God's identity on Mount Sinai in Exodus 3? Can such a response be good enough for us?