Sermon: Benedict of Nursia

The podcast can be found here.


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When I think of CEOs – Chief Executive Officers – of major corporations, I often think men and women who have only a single focus, which all boils down to dollars, and perhaps, that is why they are in the positions they hold, because it only takes one or two bad quarters and the CEO is looking for another job that may or may not come with an office on the top floor.  My guess is that many are singularly focused, but I suspect, the really successful ones have found a balance in their lives.

Currently, Coca-Cola Enterprises is a company with worth about $89 billion.  Who knew that a little red can was worth so much, but they are involved in far more than fizzy sodas.  From 1986-1991, Brian Dyson was the CEO.  Although not worth as much then as it is today, it was still a powerhouse.  In 1996, Brian was invited to Georgia Tech to deliver the commencement address.  Perhaps they were expecting him to speak on that singular drive for the golden ring, but what they got was a lesson in leading a balanced life.  Brian said:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends, and spirit – and you are keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.

Benedict of Nursia wrote his rule, what we now know as the Rule of St. Benedict, in the 6th century.  Towards the end of the prologue, Benedict writes:

Brothers and sisters, we have asked the Lord 
who is to dwell in His tent, 
and we have heard His commands 
to anyone who would dwell there; 
it remains for us to fulfill those duties.
Therefore we must prepare our hearts and our bodies 
to do battle under the holy obedience of His commands; 
and let us ask God 
that He be pleased to give us the help of His grace 
for anything which our nature finds hardly possible. 
And if we want to escape the pains of hell 
and attain life everlasting, 
then, while there is still time, 
while we are still in the body 
and are able to fulfill all these things 
by the light of this life, 
we must hasten to do now 
what will profit us for eternity.
And so we are going to establish 
a school for the service of the Lord. 

The religious who lived within the walls of the school or monastery were to work toward a life of balance between: prayer, work, study, and renewal or rest.  Whether aware of it or not, this is the type of life that Brian Davis was trying to describe to that graduating class—a life of balance.

I suspect the rubber ball that Brian describes is different for each of us.  For some it may be work, but for others it may be a leisure or rest (why do I doubt that any of us can claim it to be prayer… hmmm.)  But by focusing so much on the one, we can and often times will, lose the others.

Why did Jesus say, “None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions”?  Answer: because those things we possess often possess us, and like the demons that possessed the sick, the possessions drive us further from God and the other opportunities of our lives.  Therefore, if there is an aspect of your life that is possessing you, that is the “rubber ball,” then work to bring it into balance with the rest of your life, controlling it instead of allowing it to control you.

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