God, Mammon, Mardi Gras & Ash Wednesday

When I purchased my home 13 years ago, I called the  Realtor on the sign posted in the front yard.  I wasn’t thinking about multiple listings and the fact that I could have called my own Realtor to bargain for me.  I agreed that “Saundra” could serve as a dual agent — representing me, the buyer,  as well as the homeowner, the seller.  Now, perhaps I got the best deal available and that “Saundra” represented us both well and equally.  However, if I had it to do over again — and if I am ever involved in such dealings — I would get my own agent.

Was it — is it — possible for the Realtor to have represented me and the seller both well?  She had be hired by the seller.  After all, whose interest was she really representing?  The seller’s or mine?  I will never know.  But, in the future, I will make sure I have my own representative — making sure that the person I choose will be serving me and my interest above anyone else’s.

In the Gospel [Matthew 6:24-34] Jesus is clear and adamant:  No one can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other —- or, be devoted to one and despise the other.

Then, Jesus goes on to make us think:  if you are serving God, then you have nothing to worry about — God will take care of you — God will provide.  However, if we are serving the world, money, material things —- then we might have reason to worry.  After all, we are thinking and acting like it depends on us and the things we get, the things we can acquire.

If you have ever tried to work two jobs — you know the feeling?  Which is # 1?  Which is most important?  I remember the days when I was both pastor of a parish and rector of our local Catholic high school — I had to always remind myself, the parish is # 1.  More time, more energy, more concern had, thus, to go to the parish.

This is an everyday question and an issue people face everyday —- work, marriage, family, relationships, and the personal relationship with God!  How about, work v family v recreation?  Parents juggle their kid’s needs with work and personal husband-wife time?

NO ONE can serve two masters.  Who/What is # 1?  Who/what is the boss of our time and energy?  Who/what controls our thinking time, our yearning moments.

Pope Francis seems to be trying to tell us — our Church cannot be, one and at the same time, focused on itself and also the needs of others.  He told the new Cardinals that their new title was not a promotion or a decoration or an honor—- rather it was to be a new way of serving.  In other words, THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU!!

I would believe that most of those who are reading this are not too caught up in money and bank accounts.  But, we can all get caught up in self service rather than devotion to God.  I know, taking care of ourselves is important — if we don’t no one will.  In  my work in the “secular world,” I have learned — self care is wise.  BUT, AT THE SAME TIME, we all know, “when it is all about me” and when, “attention to others and their needs is more important than self-preservation” and “self aggrandizement.”

We here in Louisiana will soon have a chance to “party hardy” at Mardi Gras and then one day later, change the focus to Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent.

There were days when I was not much of a Mardi Gras person.  I had little time or energy for the hurrah leading up to Lent.  As time passed, I could see value in both ….. and that it was not so much of a matter of one versus the other.  I have preached many a sermon about making sure that we work as hard on Lent as we do on Mardi Gras.  It is more important to enter the 40 days with an open mind and heart to God as we are intent on catching a few plastic beads.

If it is all about Mardi Gras — then we have missed the target so badly.  If it is all about fun and games, we are really marching to the wrong tune.   The practice of giving something up in Lent is to be a reminder that we have control over “that which we give up”; in other words, candy, alcohol, eating between meals, etc. does not control us.  At some point we can ask ourselves: is this a mere exercise — or — am I really in control of my life and my destiny?

Too many politicians have compromised what they believe in order to get re-elected.  They are really not about representing people or serving the greater good.  They are about keeping their seat.  We see it in another — can we recognize it in ourselves?

When we are sad and lonely — when we are hurting — nice clothes and leather seats in our car do not matter too much.  When we need a hand to help, the big car in the garage won’t offer much help.  When we are on our deathbed, then the stock portfolio will not take away our fear.

Human relationships and our relationship with God are all that meet our needs in the times of crunch.  The ONE we serve will be the one to show up when we cry out in need.  The ONE WE SERVE will be the one to comfort us when we do not even have strength to reach out.

Serve Self — then Self will be there.  Serve power or money — Power or money will be there.  Serve God — and God will be there.

No one can serve two masters — no one.  Let us not fool ourselves.

On this weekend before Ash Wednesday, on this weekend before we begin Lent, let us know that there is one God and one alone —- to whom or what are we most devoted?

Is there good balance between spouse, work, family, play, ministry —- and God?

hjm

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