On my favorite TV show, Walker Texas Ranger, retired ranger C.D. Parker once commented, "I feel about as useful as a worker in a buggy whip factory."
Buggy whips and buggies were no longer significant in society when the "horseless carriage" came along over 120 years ago; Pony Express gave way to Rural Free Delivery, FedEx and United States Postal Service; the hand plow and mule gave way to tractors with air-conditioned cabs.
Two words can explain this phenomenon -- a paradigm shift.
A particular way of life is drastically altered, sometimes gradually and sometimes suddenly, when the usefulness of a product, organization or ideology becomes moot in the advent of revolution. Hence, a paradigm shift.
It's sad to say, but high tech devices are slowly choking the life out of publishing companies. Possibly the only thing saving the industry is found in the few die-hards who still have to have that piece of paper in their hands while having their morning coffee. But the last of those people will finally become as extinct as the last surviving Civil War vet.
In the classic, "In His Steps," published in 1894, a down-and-out man, who has lost everything due to a paradigm shift of that day, stood before a congregation and passionately chided them because no one who represented the church, or God, bothered to offer help to him.
The man had been in the printing business. He set the type using the antiquated lead fonts, during the last years of the 1800s. His job was to carefully place lead fonts in a tray, securely fasten them, and make them ready for the newspaper presses. But a gigantic paradigm shift took place -- it was called the linotype machine. Suddenly thousands of human typesetters were eclipsed by this modern-day marvel.
Fast forward about 70 years: I recall having the modern conveniences of setting type for my church newsletter by typing on a stencil with a revolutionary new IBM Selectric typewriter, and then running the copy off on a new and improved electric Gestetner mimeograph machine -- with an automatic inker.
Today, the typewriter and the mimeograph machines, which are not in the bottom of landfills, are in museums, because the new and improved desktop computer, along with a laser printer and high-tech copy machines, became the rage.
Today, it's iPads and iPhones. The floppy drive has been replaced by the thumb drive. The Betamax tape player gave way to the video tape player, which gave way to the DVD player, which now is swiftly becoming archaic, giving way to Netflix, and Hulu. Once you've set up your Netflix and Hulu accounts, just wait a couple of years -- something even more outrageous will be rolled out.
Why do you see fewer telephone service trucks on the streets today? Because it is my understanding the Southwestern Bell trucks were financed by proceeds from the pay phones. Have you seen one of those dinosaurs lately?
I recall when I worked in the billing department of a freight company 50 years ago, one of my jobs was to send out shipping information to other terminals all over the state, utilizing a teletype.
Telegrams have long since been replaced by Fax and email; And remember when a "loaded" car was marketed as having power brakes, power steering, radio, and heater? Today, those features aren't even mentioned --now cars have high tech command centers that tell you, on a computer screen when any and everything on the car needs attention. They signal to you when to change lanes, and will apply their own brakes when someone suddenly stops in front of you. They even parallel park themselves.
I will never forget the first car I ever saw, that had a "four-track" tape player. I thought, "How can there be any more technological advances? Little did I realize that one day we would be able to take devices, which would fit in our shirt pockets, and wirelessly connect with our car blue tooth audio app and play over a million of our favorite songs from iTunes, or straight from YouTube.
Now, I'm hearing on the news that young, entry-level employees at fast food establishments, are going to be replaced by technology.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact the church has also been swallowed up in a paradigm shift. Hymnals have been replaced by giant screens; And has anyone noticed how difficult it is to find a reputable piano tuner or a technician to repair the church organ?
How many common objects in your life have fallen victim to a paradigm shift? Well, since I am a preacher, and since this column is on the religion page, there needs to be a spiritual point -- and it's this: God the Father never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He will never fall victim to any paradigm shift because He is the paradigm. He cannot be improved, nor does He ever need improvement. You can't improve on perfection.
While you may no longer be able to buy a good buggy whip -- or a 6-transistor radio, you can find the God of the ages through a simple prayer - just like people did thousands of years ago. Today, you can find eternal life through the shed blood of Jesus Christ Who died on the cross. There has never been a paradigm shift to usher in any newer way for one to obtain eternal life than that way Jesus provided 2,000 years ago and provides today.