A Lent sermon - Printable Version
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- John Charmley - 11-04-2010
An interesting sermon.
Thinking about it set me to wondering about the 'frenetic pace' of modern life as our excuse for being so busy. The sermon elided this with the desire for holidays and consumer goods, as though there were a connection; there may be, but there is not necessarily one. There is, actually, as faster pace, which even if one drives and old car, wears old clothees and never goes on holidays, one still notices.
It may be that in the private sector there is a direct connection between effort, hours and money, but it is less so, if at all, in the public sector; and yet there one is busier than ever; why?
In part the explanation is a technological one. When I first became head of my department nearly a decade ago, most of my correspondence came by mail. One had time to open it, reflect on it, draf a response and dictate an answer via one's secretary; one could take even a couple days on this process. Now the wretched e mails ping stuff at one coninuously, expecting an instant response, which, of course, one coposes oneself. I' not sure anyone gains fro this new process - but one's own 'business' increases twenty-fold.
Yes, no doubt in a monastery one can move slowly; no one's going to demand a repsonse to an e mail, and there is probably not a latest directive from the authorities which demands instant attention and dissemination. I suspect we know what we're missing, but can't quite see how we are to have it in our secular lives.
We see it everywhere. When Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister he would have time to read Trollope; now our politicians scarce have time for the lower case version!
As in our other conversation in this area, are we not seeing a monastic ideal set against a secular falling away from it? If we are, is this actually helpful? Many of us just cannot stand there and be still at work, not because we don't want to but because if we did we should be deficient in doing our duties.
Can we not sacralise our work by recalling that what we do we do for Him?
It is beginning to seem as though we have a deficient theology of very way life and work. We take the monastic minority as the ideal for the secular majority, and if we do, we set unrealistic pictures before ourselves. Id our devotion to Christ really antithetical to good works? Or do I do good works because when I help to feed the hungry and clothe the poor I do it for the Lord Himself? Are we not in danger of a false dichotomy here?
Quote:even devotion to good works is idolatry if it interferes with our devotion to Christ, whose own life seemed to strike a balance between mission and reflection, between work and rest??We are not the Son of God, and our lives, whilst consecrated to Him, nonethless have in them demands He did not face.
There is a danger in this line of thinking. We denigrate what most of us do most days and place in its stead a monastic ideal which most of us will never be in a position to achieve. Surely we need a theology of work which recognises that even in the faster pace imposed by the relentless technology, we can consecrate what we do to Him? When I take the trouble to really read and thoroughly mark an essay, rather than yield to the temptation to give it a cursory read and an equally cursory mark, I remind myself that in so doing only God sees the difference, and hope He will forgive mw for taking so long doing this that I have less time to do something more overtly religious
- Simon - 11-04-2010
For the record, the sermon was by no means exclusively monastic based, despite its monastic references which were used as are all my references when they say well what it is I am trying to say (and invariably say it better than I would). It was equally inspired by Dale Carnegie's (yes, he of 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' fame or infamy) 'How to Stop Worrying and Start Living'... and also by that book 'In Praise of Slow' which far from being in any way monastic includes a chapter extolling the virtues of slower eating (enjoying a dining out evening experience as a change from fast food takeaways) and also a chapter on the joys of slow sex! Hardly a monastic based book! I hope that at no tine would I seek to denigrate the incorrectly called secular work of anyone. I recommend the excellent hymn "Teach me my God in all things thee to see" as a good corrective to any such view. I nonetheless held and hold that in Lent it was good to call people to attmept to slow down from those things from which they could slow done or do less of, so as to find more conscious prayer time, time for God in that sense.
No doubt the sermon was not as clear as I intended - and that is something I do well to remember when posting in an open forum like this. It was one thing preaching to a few people in a congregation who knew me and had a familiar context of other sermons, of newsletters (including one addressing a balanced approach to Lent - well I hope it was balanced anyhow). But in an open forum like this when enquirers, catechumens, and plain curious as well as those well more devout than me can all read it, then yes I should choose with great care what I post. Yes indeed I wil strive to remember this and exercise greater caution with any future postings - so thank you.
- John Charmley - 12-04-2010
Dear Fr. Simon,
Not at all, it did what all good sermons should so, it made us all think - and you are excellent at that. It is good for us all - if a little uncomfortable at times.