Trading In Intangibles

Over the last few weeks, I’ve bought two CDs.

The first one was the new release by Mumford & Sons, surely one of the few rock acts ever to use banjo, fiddle, and stand up bass and still look cool.

The second purchase was of a new CD by Band Of Horses, a modern band with the throwback sound of CSNY, America, and the early Eagles.  In fact, this disc is so early 70s and Laurel Canyon that I’ve been tempted to start singing Tequila Sunrise while listening to it — even though BOH does all originals and no covers.

But this post isn’t about music.  

It’s about commerce.

Because my children (23 and 20) consider it almost inconceivable that I buy music in CD format.  To them, music is something you download, and I’m wasting time, money, and space by actually going to a store and buying something so . . . tangible.

And what is true of modern music is true of movies and books as well.  We are quickly becoming people who no longer buy things; we buy binary codes.

In short order, we will no longer have a tactile experience with the music we listen to, the movies we watch, or the books we read.

In fact, when the people of Good Shepherd lift their bibles before the sermon these days, a lot of them raise  the mobile devices on which their bible is stored.  At least I hope that’s what they’re doing with those mobile devices during church.

And an increasing number of preachers — younger, hipper, and cooler than me — are preaching from their iPads instead of their leather-bound bibles.

So what is the future of commerce when you can never touch what you buy?

And where is purchasing headed when the money you use to buy those things you’ll never touch is itself embedded in computer codes, moving from your bank account to a company’s deposit system?

 Perhaps I shouldn’t be too alarmed.

After all if anyone has some experience trading in what is intangible, it’s those of us who preach the Gospel.

Modern commerce may be turning the tangible into the intangible.

But the ancient church has always gone in the reverse direction — taking the intangible and making it tangible.

If you’ve ever tasted the bread of communion or been immersed in the waters of baptism, you know exactly what I mean.