Community of Tampa | St. Pete | Florida

 Put Away Your Devices

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”–Mt  24:35

Does anybody have the time? This is just an experiment to see how many of you are ‘old school’ with an actual watch around your wrist, and how many fish out your smart phone from your pocket.  Well the statistics say that it is about 50/50-those who wear watches vs. those who don’t-which is drastically lower than just 10-20 years ago when most people wore watches.  Why the change?  Because your smartphone is your life now.  It takes calls, it receives emails, text and social media. You can bank and shop, heck, you can basically run this church! Who needs a watch, all it does is tell time?  Well actually, the watch is making a huge comeback; but it won’t be a dumb old watch, it will of course be a brave new smart watch!  Apple is starting to sell its new smart watch by the millions, which does almost everything your smartphone does, but now the screen is always before your eyes, not even separated by your front pocket.

There is of course a dark side to all of this. The workday no longer finishes at 5 or 6pm, as messages continue to push through late into the night. We supposedly have our smart phones, computers and tablets so we can manage and control our day, but who/what is really in control? I’ve set up all these notifications on my phone, so that I don’t check my schedule and messages anymore, they check me. Some research in 2012 with college students found that they actually began to experience phantom vibrations, thinking their phone was buzzing when it wasn’t! There are some real detrimental effects to smartphone use on body, mind and spirit, especially overuse and especially on children.  That being said, I have always believed that technology is neither good nor bad, it all depends on how we use them.  So I have two self-tests to help us be aware of how we are using them.

Please join me in the first self-test.  When you get a chance, scroll through your phone notifications; your meetings, your phone calls and texts.  Do they reflect what you say are the most important people and things are in your life?  If family is important to you, how many calls, messages or meetings during your week are to family members?  If trying to be a better person in your daily life is important to you, how many Church & Bible apps, people and podcasts are on your phone?  If growing closer to God is important to you, what does you phone calendar tell you about how much time you spend with God at church ab dub prayer? The first self-test to ensure that we have control over our technology, not it over us, is to see if it reflects our deepest priorities. This first self-test can be done anywhere at any time.

The second self-test, however, is best done here in church. When in church, notice that there are no clocks.  Notice your peace that you are not looking at your smartphone.  Notice that our frosted windows insulate us even from the movement going on outside. Remember that in church we pause ordinary time, and enter into sacred time.  Yes, time is sacred, because it belongs to God and not to us. If we would be healthy and happy in time, as with anything else, the key is to submit our frantic and fractured weekly schedule to God, who stands like an anchor outside of time. As Jesus says in today’s Gospel reading, “though Heaven and earth will pass away, my words will not pass away.”

The Sabbath, Sunday was designed by God from the very beginning as a self-test for we his creatures, who have always tended to lose our priorities and perspective with the gift of our time.  The Sabbath is our weekly reminder that, weekdays come and go, but what remains in the end, is only what we have offered to God and each other in love. And just as the Sabbath is our weekly reminder of the gift of time and God’s love, the Season of the Cross, is our yearly reminder of the same, where we focus on living our lives in the shape of the cross– forgiving those who hurt us, caring for the sick, and helping the poor.

So therefore, in a world where everything changes faster and faster, we desperately need that one place where the clock is not running, where the goal is the same, where the promise of a grounded and balanced life with God, church and family is always available.  This church is and always will be the place of God’s Sabbath, of sacred time shaped by the sacred cross. Our weekly reminder that however fast the world passes over our screens, Our Lord’s promise of redemption by love will never pass away.  This is truly a promise you can set your clocks by; now and always, amen.

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