By Norris Burkes May 7 2023
Last Sunday, I began my sermon with these profound and eloquent words:
“Dear brothers and sisters. Today, we will reflect on the parable Jesus told of the lost sheep….”
Only one problem, though. I didn’t write the sermon starter – not even the 400 words that followed it.
I quickly confessed to the group that I used an Artificial Intelligence (AI) website to compose my “profound and eloquent intro” in under 10 seconds. (See the sermon below.)
The AI website is called ChatGPT and it uses natural language processing to create humanlike conversational dialogue.
Users simply enter a few words to compose various written content, including articles, notes of condolence or thanks, essays, emails. Even, it turns out, sermons. (And yes, scammer emails.)
In my case, I simply entered the request, “Write a sermon about Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep.”
ChatGPT spit out this opening paragraph: “The parable found in the Gospel of Luke chapter 15 tells the story of a shepherd who had 100 sheep. One day, he discovered that one of his sheep was missing. So he left the 99 in search of the one that was lost. When he found it, he rejoiced and brought it back to the flock.”
If you’re looking for this columnist to condemn this slick tech, it won’t happen. I love tech stuff. Always have.
And I have to admit that AI did a decent job.
However, lest congregants be tempted to replace their pastor with AI (or editors be enticed to replace this columnist), I have to point out the irony of having AI interpret this particular parable.
Jesus’ story is all about the importance of the individual. The value of each of us to God.
The story is all about the uniqueness of our sameness. We are atomically alike, but our issues, our heartbreaks, our heart joys are uniquely ours.
AI can’t imagine those things; it can only plagiarize them.
Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College learned this lesson the hard way a few months ago when they used ChatGPT to email their students about the shooting at Michigan State University.
While well written, Camilla Benbow, dean of education at Peabody College openly acknowledged that the school “…missed the crucial need for personal connection and empathy during a time of tragedy.”
Using canned answers and sympathy made from a mold doesn’t work with real people who are really hurting.
The psalmist expressed this uniqueness in 139:13-14. “‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.’”
The verse wasn’t meant to become the center of political debate. The words are intended to give you what I would call your “You-ness” in God’s eyes.
Or as Saint Augustine put it, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
In a few months, I may try to slip another AI sermon past my congregants. But so far, the biggest problem I see– besides a few parishioners actually reading this column – is the AI site keeps the output brief.
AI sermons tend to be short – about 450 words or ten minutes in pulpit time.
Who’s gonna believe I would keep it brief? Honestly, we just can’t have that.
Sermon by Chat GPT Sunday April 30
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today, I want to talk to you about one of the most beloved parables of Jesus – the parable of the lost sheep. This parable is found in the Gospel of Luke chapter 15, and it tells the story of a shepherd who had 100 sheep. One day, he discovered that one of his sheep was missing. So, he left the 99 in search of the one that was lost. When he found it, he rejoiced and brought it back to the flock.
This parable is a powerful metaphor for God’s love and compassion for us. It shows us that God cares about every single one of us, and that when we wander away from Him, He will leave everything to come and find us.
The lost sheep represents us, the lost souls who have wandered away from God. We may have made mistakes, we may have sinned, we may have lost our way, but God still loves us and wants us to return to Him. He never gives up on us, and He is always searching for us.
The shepherd represents Jesus, who left heaven to come to earth and search for the lost sheep. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and He did it by dying on the cross for our sins. Through His sacrifice, we can be reconciled with God and have eternal life.
So, what does this parable teach us? Firstly, it teaches us about the nature of God’s love. God’s love is unconditional, and it does not depend on our actions or merit. He loves us simply because we are His children.
Secondly, it teaches us about the importance of repentance. Just as the lost sheep had to return to the flock, we too must repent of our sins and turn back to God. When we do, we will experience His forgiveness and restoration.
Finally, it teaches us about the joy of salvation. When the shepherd found the lost sheep, he rejoiced and celebrated. In the same way, when we are saved, there is joy in heaven. It is a joy that cannot be measured, a joy that comes from being reunited with our Heavenly Father.
In conclusion, the parable of the lost sheep reminds us that we are never too lost to be found by God. He loves us and wants us to come back to Him. Let us repent of our sins, turn to God, and experience the joy of salvation. Amen.
Snail mail received at 10566 Combie Road, Suite 6643, Auburn, CA 95602 or voicemail 843-608-9715. Visit my website at www.thechaplain.net where you can read past columns and purchase my books.