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Sermons > Second Sunday after Epiphany

18 Jan 2015

“Samuel was sleeping in the Temple of the Lord where the ark of God was.  The Lord called to Samuel, who answered, ‘Here I am.’”  (1 Samuel 3:3-4)                                In the name …

The way it used to work in my family was that when the girls wanted a phone upgrade I would inherit their old ones.  That was fine with me because I only use my cell phone as a phone.  I don’t text.  I don’t send selfies.  I don’t surf the internet.  I don’t play games.  I only use my cell phone as a phone.  And I know this all sounds old fashioned, but it’s a lot more modern than the black rotary dial phone I had on the rectory office desk when I first got here.  Progress is being made.  I even turn off my cell phone at night, and some of the younger people here may be wondering, “How can he do that?”  So before I even start, I want to let you know that I’m fully aware of the fact that I am not anywhere near up to date on cell phones and smart phones and whatever other devices may be out there.  I understand this.

But the people who understand technology are now saying it’s too much.  A guy by the name of Luke Thomas felt addicted to his smartphone so he created an app called Digital Detach that temporarily dumbs-down his smartphone so that it can only make calls and send texts.  People have become so dependent on their devices that they even need their devices to escape from them.  Another guy, Kevin Holesh, created an app called Moment that measures how many moments you spend on your phones or mobile devices – the average is three hours a day!  So no complaints about an hour in church once a week.  It also calculates how many times a user checks his or her phone.  The average, again, is between 50 and one hundred times every day!  This probably explains why some people can’t even make it through Mass without checking their phone.  Moment was downloaded 100,000 times on the first day.  People realize it’s too much.  

People are realizing that they need help unplugging from technology.  David Greenfield is a psychiatrist who last November ran a study that found between 10 and 12 percent of adult smartphone users display symptoms of compulsive behaviour disorder, and nearly two-thirds of users sleep with their mobile device in or next to their bed.  I even heard a person say that a concert was so good that they didn’t know whether to watch it or to tape it, which to me translates as either enjoy it in person or enjoy it on a screen.  I don’t understand the comparison.  And what people in the know are discovering is that these devices are stealing all of our down time.  Reflexively, if there’s a quiet moment or two, people are grabbing their phones to play games, to check and send emails, to Snapchat.  (Bar story)  We’re not only becoming detached from the real world; we’re becoming detached from our own thoughts.  And this isn’t me of the old cell phone saying this.  This is technology people admitting this. 

The reason I bring this up this morning is because research is suggesting that our most original ideas are born when we stop the constant stimulation and instead give our minds a chance to slow down, to wander and to wonder.  If we’re not bothered every spare moment by Candy Crush Saga or Trivia Crack, then we have a chance to think differently and freely.  The way I heard it on NPR was:  “You start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, a little bit into the sub-conscious, which [then] allows sort of different connections to take place [in the brain].”  The break from constant electronics gives the brain a chance to see and hear things that are not obvious, and to put things together in ways that are not usual.  And guess what?  That’s where faith lives.  This is where religion makes its home.  This is where spirituality breathes.  This is where Jesus has His chance to speak with us.

That’s the point of this morning’s story about young Samuel.  God calls to him as he sleeps in the Sanctuary.  In a verse prior to the selection we read earlier as today’s Lesson, we are told “a revelation of the Lord was uncommon and vision infrequent.” (3:1)  Yet, our Samuel sleeps in the Sanctuary by the Ark of the Covenant.  Samuel gives time for God to speak to him.  I still remember the words of a Trappist monk who spoke to us while I was on a college retreat to their monastery in Spencer.  These are men who devote themselves almost completely to prayer and meditation.  His words to us young college students were, “Learn to waste time with God.”  That’s what Samuel was doing.  He was giving God the chance to speak to him.  Four times, says the Bible, God called.  Samuel was at first confused, but after the third calling of his name Samuel was ready to listen.  This is why I asked the choir to sing this morning “Here I Am Lord” because of the thrice-repeated words of the young prophet:  “Here I am.”  This is what church gives us a chance to say to God:  here I am.  Think about that as you sing or listen to the words of that Communion hymn this morning.  This place, this moment, is our opportunity of quiet and contemplation to say “Here I am Lord.”  And in a world filled with noise and gadgets this time and this place is becoming ever more sacred.

The church has a lot to do for the world.  This is why we should relish tomorrow’s national holiday.  It was churches and one of her ministers that righted the wrong of institutional prejudice.  It was churches and Rev. King who made America more American.  This is also why I hope you will be generous as the young people accept your donations for the Souper Bowl of Caring, which is an effort started by church youth to feed the poor and hungry just as Jesus commanded us to do.  In Scripture it is revealed that “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:17)  But the given, what doesn’t even need to be stated, is the foundation of faith.  Our time together here gives faith a chance.  This allows Jesus to speak to us, and this allows us to answer “Here I am Lord.”  For this may we be ever grateful, and because of this let us pray that church always be important in our lives.  For this we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.  (+)


Fr. Randolph Calvo


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