The World Wide Web and God’s indiscriminate generosity
So it turns out my service about how the creation of the World Wide Web reminds us of God’s grace was a hit. I didn’t have people asking me if I was in ministry this time, but the folk at the abbey still loved it.
Click through for the full text. Now y’all can tell me how I got the history of the Web all wrong. I’ve removed the bits of liturgy I don’t have the rights to distribute and I’ve formatted it for Tumblr as best I can. Basically it’s just the prayers I wrote and the short reflection I delivered. There was other stuff that happened too though.
Please be seated. Let us pray:
Precious Jesus, you are the Way, Truth and Life
You have opened the way to be close to God,
And for that we are truly thankful
O Hope of the world, continue to draw us to you
So that we can work with you, ushering in your comingKingdom
Already here, but not fully realised
The opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics was one of the highlights of my year. The theme for the ceremony was “This is for Everyone”, which is a phrase taken from Sir Tim Burners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, who was honoured during the ceremony for his contributions to the internet. I was touched by the sentiment and did some research on this man, and in the process I discovered some incredible things which made me think about God’s relationship to us and also about the Kingdom of Heaven.
Our readings this evening come from Ephesians chapter 2 verses 1-10, where Paul tells the believers in Ephesus about God coming to us in Jesus, taking us from our old lives and setting us on a new path. And another reading from Luke chapter 9 verses 1-6, about when Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. Listen now for the word of God.
Leader: For the Word of God in Scripture, for the Word of God among us, for the Word of God within us
ALL: THANKS BE TO GOD
Tim Burners-Lee is an incredible man. While working at the physics lab, CERN in Switzerland and France he invented a handful of technologies many of us now use on a daily basis, all of which work together to create the interlinked documents we now refer to as the Web. He invented the web browser, something found on every computer and nearly every mobile device developed today. He invented the system of hypertext links we use to navigate from page to page online. And he invented HTML code, which is the language web pages are written in so they can appear on our screens.
The incredible thing about all these technologies are not the ideas themselves, but that on the 30th of April 1993, CERN, under the direction of Tim Burners-Lee, announced that the Web would now be free – to anyone, with no fees due. The first browser, which was invented by Burners-Lee, was released into the public domain, which meant that anyone could use it, change it, resell it and innovate on it, without paying Burners-Lee anything at all. Tim Burners-Lee could have made a lot of money from his inventions but instead he gave them away, which was a significant personal and financial risk.
Previous to this announcement, the internet was just an academic tool almost only ever used by scientists and scholars, but this act of indiscriminate generosity opened up the internet to the world, sparking the formation of new economies, forms of artistic expression, political activism and accountability, and most of all – collaboration. Everybody benefited from it: both the deserving and undeserving. It was for everyone, and it changed the world.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee made himself vulnerable to exploitation by making his inventions freely available. In a spirit of collaboration he allowed others to join in the work of making the web everything that it is today – this is a work that is unfinished; it is perpetually improving. So it is that in an act of indiscriminate generosity God made himself vulnerable to us, making himself freely available through Jesus. In a spirit of collaboration he has allowed others to join in his work, continually ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven. What wonders the internet, through the World Wide Web, has opened up to us, and what wonders we can see developing in the ever-growing Kingdom – collaboration, self-expression, reconciliation, activism and a thirst for justice. What a privilege that we can take part. This is for everyone. Praise be to God!
Let us now reflect for a time upon the gift of grace God has given to us.
Let us pray
Wondrous God, you have expressed the incomparable riches of your grace to us through Jesus.
Although we have done nothing to deserve it, you have opened the way to work with you in building your Kingdom.
Make clear to us the work you have prepared in advance for us to do.
Please strengthen our faith.
Encourage us to make ourselves vulnerable for your sake, and for the sake of everyone around us.
Plant in us a spirit of indiscriminate generosity, and in so doing unlock wonders never before imagined.