Scott Moore, Erfurt, Germany

Warm-up Question

When have you ever seen an image or video and suspected it was a fake? 

Is Seeing Really Believing?

Since the advent of A.I.-generated images, we have experienced fascinating examples of creativity. Mash ups of unlikely images, inspiring universes beyond the wildest imagination, and quite unnerving and even nefarious examples. We have seen people we respect and people we don’t displayed doing the things we are either shocked to see or confirmed in our biases about them. Quite often, though these images are not of something that really happened, they are presented as the news. 

With a few clever commands and maybe some raw images or video, one can simulate natural disasters or scenes of war. The various stock photo sites are scrambling to adjust. Do they refuse to share and sell uploads of events that have been faked, or do they share them and label them as A.I.-generated and fake? 

The average viewer is now faced with the challenge of what to do once they have seen these images the first time. Was it real? How does it support or challenge my existing views? Can I get the images out of my mind? What are my options in today’s fast-paced news cycle filled with powerful images, which may be legitimate or not. 

Discussion Questions

  • Where do you see advantages in A.I. generated visual content?
  • When is art generated by A.I. still art?
  • What kind of guidelines do we need as we evolve along with A.I.?
  • Which one of these images was created with A.I.?

Second Sunday after Epiphany

1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

John 1:43-51

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

“In the beginning was the Word.” This is how John’s gospel starts. No shepherds, magi, donkeys, sheep, mangers, and the like. The gospel goes on to talk about this eternal Word that has become flesh,  and this flesh that was also a light. Sound, material, and photons: a mystical mix of life and energy that our senses can detect. The Gospel of John has the theme of light and darkness.  It also speaks of seeing, which is our sense which most readily detects light. This theme of seeing and faith that comes from seeing is woven throughout the gospel. (Work through the Gospel of John looking for themes of seeing/light/faith and bearing witness or testifying. It’s all over the place.)  

The gospel text for this week has a lot of seeing going on. “Come and see!”, “You will see greater things than this.”, “You will see heaven opened….”  The invitation to know who Jesus is comes with a simple, excited “Come and see!” The Word of God is now flesh and is a light for the world. Come and see! 

If the Gospel of John wants us to see Jesus for who he is, how does that translate into our world today? Is it enough to read a story about others who see God in Jesus? Does it suffice to hear someone tell about their experiences with God? What does the world need to have its eyes opened to the potential of God’s love, made known in Jesus and made known in our lives? If we have become so jaded by the twisting of words and images, where do we find our ability to share something authentic about our faith? 

Perhaps the answer lies in taking a look at our own experiences with God’s love, revealed in Christ, and sharing it. Others trusted Philip. He didn’t ask people who didn’t know him to “come and see!” He’d already created a  relationship  a foundation of trust. Maybe the gospel’s word for us today is to start with what we know and invite others to experience that with us. 

It isn’t, “Hey check that out,” but “come and see!” We bring others into our experiences of God and God’s love. That is authentic. It’s inviting. That is encouraging. This is what Philip models for us and Jesus promises Philip that he will see much more than he bargained for. That isn’t fake news. That is good news. 

Discussion Questions

  • When did you most feel God’s presence or working in your life?
  • When have you questioned your faith?
  • Who has invited you into a deeper relationship with God/Jesus?
  • When do you feel most authentic? And, where do you see a connection with that to your faith?

Activity Suggestion

Take a walk around your church and look for signs (with or without words) that are inviting or make you want to learn or know more about your church community or about God. Conversely, are there signs (with or without words) that are not inviting or even risk driving people away. 

Closing Prayer

God of light and love, open our eyes to see your beauty and grace the world around us. Inspire us to be our most authentic selves and let us be a beacon of light for those who are looking for you. Help us to embody a spirit of welcome and empower us to be voices of encouragement wherever we go. We ask this in the name of the Word made flesh, the light of the world. Jesus the Christ. Amen