Router Reset: Staying Focused on Our Calling
A few weeks ago, John called me here at work to say that I needed to call him on his cell phone if I wanted to get in touch with him. The reason was that Verizon was working in the neighborhood. Since we are completely dependent on Verizon for television reception, Internet access and telephone service, the Martin household was pretty much shut down until they finished working. For me, that particular day turned out to be one of those frustrating times when nothing went quite as I had anticipated and I just never seemed to see anything I was doing to a simple conclusion. As a result, I was absolutely whacked out by the time I got home that afternoon. Then I got to hear from John that our service had not actually been off very long, but when it came back on he couldn’t get the router on the computer to work. So after a lengthy and frustrating conversation with some tech support person…somewhere, he finally went out and bought a new router.
The way I understand these things, which may or may not be accurate, you techies out there, a router is a piece of computer hardware that sends your messages speeding to their destination along thousands of pathways. At our house it specifically directs messages to and from other electronic devices in the house wirelessly. As I listened to John’s story, it suddenly dawned on me that when I’m absolutely whacked out, it’s like my internal router is broken. My brain may be going a thousand miles a minute but the messages it’s sending never seem to get to the appropriate places or arrive at the appropriate time, and I end up being confused and ineffectual.
In the world you and I live in today, it can be terribly difficult to stay focused. There’s so much to distract us. If we’re out and about, we may see in an hour or two more people than many people years ago might have seen in a week or a month or, in some cases, a lifetime! We’re bombarded with information and images that stimulate us to a degree that would be inconceivable to someone 50 or 60 years ago. If we allow it, the world literally comes into our homes for a large part of every day. And we live in the age of “extreme multitasking.” If we aren’t trying to do at least six or eight things at once, we may feel we’re wasting time. No wonder our internal routers get overwhelmed sometimes.
It’s tempting to think this is something new, but I believe that in every time and place people have been distracted from what they needed to pay attention to. The only thing that’s really shifted is the sheer volume of interference with our capacity to organize and prioritize what’s most important at the moment, over the long haul, and for our very existence.
Sometimes the distractions are internal and lead us to willful neglect of what is important and necessary. I think that’s what’s going on with Jonah in the snippet of the story we hear this morning. The first time God asked him to go to the people of Nineveh and warn them to repent and change their unfaithful ways, Jonah ran away because he didn’t want to do what God had asked. For reasons we’re never told, he simply didn’t want to participate in saving the city because he knew they would heed his warning and he thought they ought to get whatever punishment they had coming to them. My very educated guess is that most, if not all of us in this room have shared that sentiment about people getting what they deserve at one time or another during our lives, and we know that our prejudice when that happens can short-circuit what God’s loving mercy may require of us in a situation.
And then there are the Christians in Corinth. Paul, echoing the belief of his day, sends them a warning of his own. He says that it won’t be long until Jesus returns and when he does they will have to make an accounting for the lives they have lived. So he gives them some advice that sounds very strange to your ears and mine. Got a spouse? Live like you don’t have one. Feeling sad? Act like you’re happy. Feeling happy? Act like you’re sad. Going shopping? Don’t delude yourself into thinking you’ll actually own what you buy. Got business with other people? Don’t think that business is overly important. “Things are changing,” Paul warns. “They’re changing drastically.”
You know, it’s not so much that Paul wants the Corinthians to ignore their spouses, deny their true feelings, neglect the routines of commerce that life requires of them, or stop having anything to do with others. What he’s trying to get them to do is prioritize the realities of their lives in relationship to what is most important; loving and serving God. Sometimes what distracts us from letting God have priority is the seemingly endless list of life’s ordinary relationships and responsibilities. So the warning is as applicable to each of us as it was to those long-ago Corinthians. Stay focused on what matters most, and that is God.
In a different vein, the psalmist says, “For God alone my soul in silence waits…He alone is my rock and my salvation.” The psalmist who, like us, is subject to the same distractions of family, shifting emotions and worldly responsibilities reminds himself and you and me that all those things are relative. What matters is that God is God and that our peace and well being are most surely to be found by staying focused on God above all else.
And finally, in the gospel Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John drop everything to follow Jesus. They abandon their work and James and John literally leave their father sitting in the boat. Because of the rather limited geography that Jesus exercised his earthly ministry, there is no reason to think that they never went home again or that they never knew what was happening with those they loved. But the reality is their priorities changed drastically when they heeded the call of Jesus to follow him.
This morning we pray asking God to give us grace “to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ to proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation”. The reality is that most people, including you and me, are called “in situ.” We are not asked to pick up and leave all we’ve known behind, but to serve God within the lives he’s given us. Each of us is called when and where we are, and the call remains the same: to share God as we know him in Christ Jesus with those around us. It makes me wonder if perhaps we have a router in our hearts like the one in our heads to keep us focused on what God desires for us and to direct us toward what God wants from us. It makes me wonder if maybe, when we struggle to stay focused on our calling…it makes me wonder if that router in our heart can break as well, as it waits to be reset by prayer and attention to what really matters.