Pulpits and portkeys?

Having not been to France for a couple of years, one of the things I noticed this year was the increasing use of QR codes. Look, for instance, at the photo below. Taken outside a small town hall in a small seaside town – and yet just about every restaurant and hotel displays its QR code.

Where to eat and stay in Houlgate

A couple of days later, visiting one of many poignant reminders of the D Day landings, I noticed that information panels at each site now contained a QR code. Those with the right kind of smartphone could scan the code and watch original footage of those momentous events right there on the spot where they had taken place. This seemed to be an interesting fusion of the old and the new, the past and the future.

I then came across the poster below, for an arts festival running on the North Normandy coast during July and early August:

The artists involved have realised the full digi-graphic-info potential of these codes, and have deposited various “flash-cubes” at different points around the Norman tourist trail. Each 1 metre cube depicts art by one of the artists, details about their work, and a giant QR code, from which the visitor can visit the artist’s website and vote for them to win this innovative arts competition. Unlike old-fashioned flashcubes, which were thrown away after four uses, these quirky cubes are like gateways to a whole world of other content. Each QR code (whether in the full square-metre size or no bigger than a postage stamp), can hold up to 4296 alpha-numeric characters and act as a digital signpost to another place. For any Harry Potter affiicionados – they function as a portkey, to take you elsewhere from the spot where you are standing.

There is something intriguing about all this, especially for those of us whose profession is dominated by words. These QR codes are graphic representations of alpha-numeric characters which in turn lead to verbal and graphic content (which is generated by numbers!)  As a preacher I engage just about every week in an act of verbal communication from the pulpit. However, I never want it to stop at that. The sermon as a verbal act should always function as a gateway to the incarnation of the Word in both individuals and congregation. We preach words about the Word in order that the Word might take up residence in those who hear.

If the sermon acts as a signpost, like these cubes on a Normandy headland, I wonder where it is taking people?

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