Text: Matthew 6:24-34
Jesus said we can’t serve two masters, but what did he know? Computers, mobile phones and Sat-Nav equipment enable us to serve three, four, five or more masters all at the same time, and we call it “multi-tasking.”
Of course, multi-tasking isn’t really an improvement over good old-fashioned “serving two masters,” since many people who multi-task are still serving only the god of money.I’m thinking of the man driving to his 18-hour day in the City, recently caught with one eye on the Stock Market Averages displayed by his computer on the passenger seat of his car while he trades shares simultaneously with two mobile phones and steers with his knees. His children have forgotten who their father is.
Most of us, however, don’t spend quite so much of our precious mental bandwidth on good old fashioned greed and getting rich. We’re not about wealth, or what the Authorised Version so colourfully called “mammon.”
The standing joke is that clergy only work on Sundays, but at any point in the day, I can be found on the telephone talking with parishioners, downloading information related to our parish building projects, working on spreadsheets related to our finance, updating the parish database with new information about our people, sending and receiving emails related to the liturgy, interviewing for new teaching staff, sitting in a class ensuring the quality of teaching standards or liaising with the local council as we prepare to build the new Children’s Centre.
None of these is “mammon” as they are related to the work and witness of the Church and its role in the local Community…
Most of them, considered in isolation, are quite godly. But I have to wonder, as I glance with a distracted eye at the icon of Jesus I keep on my desk for just this purpose, if in the middle of all this, that I’m in touch with God at all.
The pressure of life itself makes us value quick study, snap decisions and ready skills. If it’s deep, nuanced or spiritual we might not have time for it; for the multiplicity of information: emails, text messages, phone calls and knocks on the door, paperwork piling up on the desk and a long to-do list is in danger of simply overrunning the task of prayer, worship and following Christ.
We may not be shaped, so much as limited, by the many tasks we do.We cannot serve two masters.
On Thursday, for an hour, on the Feast of Corpus Christi I brought out the Blesséd Sacrament for prayer and devotion, and it was the most simple, beautiful and moving experience. The difference, between my busy, overfilled, administrative life and the call of prayer and devotion cannot be over-emphasised.
And I am sure that if it is like this for me, then it must be even more challenging for you. Prayer, and especially the cycle of the Daily Office – the recitation of Morning and Evening Prayer, Mass as the sustaining food of the week, all of these is built into my prayer and working life. But you also have working lives which seeks to compete with this – the demands of work, family, elderly relatives, children and grandchildren are in danger of crowding out God in our lives.
That’s not to say that we should stop doing the things that feed and sustain us. I doubt any of us wants to trade what we do for hunting woolly mammoth! (In short supply in Gosport, I expect) It does mean, however, that we need to pay attention to the spiritual health of the single person we are at the centre of all these tasks; it does mean that we need to pay attention to the souls of those around us whose lives we touch in such a variety of ways; and it does mean that we need to remember the divine master who asks for our full loyalty before all the other things in life.
In other words, to survive spiritually in a multi-tasking world we must live by the real priorities of life: love God, love your neighbour as yourself. Don’t turn your tasks into your master and serve them. Serve God by turning your multiple tasks into opportunities to minister God’s nearness and love. Let your love for God relieve you of the inhuman pressure you feel as you fall behind in your tasks. God is a much more loving and forgiving master than we are loving and forgiving of ourselves in our slavery to our checklists and our diaries.
And then, my dear friends, we will discover that those things which feed and sustain us become a joyous by-product of our relationship with God, that our work and our play and our families are a metaphor for the love of God, and become not pressure points, but blessings.
Loving God first, however, takes work. Our relationship with God is not something we can put on hold so that we can pour ourselves into more immediate tasks. Loving God takes conscious energy and intentional focus of mind and spirit.
So in your multi-tasking, pour your consciousness into the places where it all comes together. The many things you do for your children come together in your love for them and your desire to see them prosper in body, mind and spirit. The many things you do for your job come together in your commitment to make the world a better place and to put woolly mammoth burgers on the table for your family .The many things you do for yourself come together in a meaningful life as a human being.
God is the one who fills the things we do with transcendent purpose in the service of love, integrity, justice, mercy, kindness. God is the one whose purpose is to turn simple acts into ministry to souls. The meaning of such actions is ours as well when God is the master we serve.
So the question we should ask every minute of every day is simply this: Do I serve the things I’m doing because they demand pieces of me, or do I serve God who reframes them all into forms of ministry?
I recall a lament from the early ‘sixties: “The busier I am the behinder I get.” Maybe we could update that to a 21st century version: “The more I do the less I am.”
A Christianity response is equally simple. “The more I do for God, the more I am who I was made to be.”