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Upgrade Your Umwelt

• Greg Boyd

In this sermon, Greg challenges us to upgrade our umwelt. He expands on what Emily introduced in the previous week, and provides three practical ways that we can increase our ability to see God and enter into the knowledge of his transcendent glory.

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Building on Emily’s sermon from last week, Greg expounds on what it means to upgrade our “umwelt.” This is a German word that refers to any organism’s awareness of its environment, which is determined by the senses that a particular organism possesses. This is based on the book An Immense World by Ed Yong. Every organism has different ways of experiencing environment. For instance, human vision allows us to see three millionths of one percent of the light spectrum. This would be the equivalent of a human hair in comparison to an arm. We are not able to see 99.9997% of what there is to see! Reality far outruns the human umwelt.

At the same time, there is the opportunity to partner with God to upgrade our spiritual umwelt. We are invited to step through the door and enter the throne room, as John did in Revelation 4. This is what stirs up in us a sense of awe and wonder at the majesty and glory of God. It’s why we worship. We do not worship because God demands it or to avoid some kind of punishment. We worship because we see the splendor and beauty. There is no other way to respond but to bask in the revelation of the divine grandeur. This is why the creatures in Revelation four never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”

This is why the 24 elders proclaim:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”

Greg concludes the sermon by providing three tips for an umwelt upgrade. First, ask God to open the eyes of your heart. This request is based on what Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:17-19:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

The fact that Paul keeps asking the glorious Father to open the eyes of people’s hearts to know God better presupposes that we need the Father’s help to open the eyes of our hearts to know God better.

Second, wake up to the miracle of creation. We live in a “just a” world, where we fail to see the beauty of what we see because things are “just a” this or “just a” that. There is no “just a.” Everything we encounter in creation possesses a beauty that has the potential to stir up wonder if we take the time to see it. This can turn our vision to God who provides the gift of creation.

Third, give thanks. God is good like the sun shines. He is good all the time, but sometimes the clouds of a fallen creation and of wrong choices can block the sun from reaching people. If we focus on the clouds, we will become consumed by the shadows. But if we focus on the places where the sun is breaking through, our vision will expand and we will become increasingly aware of the light that has always been present, even in the midst of the shadows. The practice of gratitude is crucial for upgrading our umwelt.

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Topics: Imagination, Presence of God

Sermon Series: Good Heavens!


Downloads & Resources

Audio File
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Focus Scripture:

  • Revelation 4:1

    After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

For Further Reading:

An Immense World by Ed Yong

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2 thoughts on “Upgrade Your Umwelt

  1. Kent says:

    Regarding Rev 4:1, the Greek word “meta” here translated as “after” is often translated as “with”, and the Greek word “dei” here translated as “must” has the idea of “necessity”. Is it possible, especially in light of the last two Umvelt messages, that John is seeing the scenes in ch 4 and 5 as being coincident, or “with”, of necessity happening at the same time as the current experience of the seven churches? Despite all the conditions and persecutions those churches are facing and experiencing, there is still One on the throne, with a Lamb who overcomes by self-sacrificial love?

    1. Emily says:

      Hi Kent,
      That’s a great insight — thanks for sharing!
      Emily from Communications Team

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