Sloth

Rev. Megan Huston
February 22, 2015

Matt 6:1-6, 16-21

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 16“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

            Well, friends, it has been quite the week, hasn’t it? I found out that last Sunday was a record low attendance week, and I think it was because many of you were out preparing for the snowpacalypse, one person noting we are more afraid of the cold than God. But it is a good thing we got to the store, because many of us spent days stuck inside, forced to get to know our neighbors and to rest a while.

            For some of you it was a welcome break from your routine, but for many by Wednesday or Thursday, you were getting pretty stir crazy. As we enter the season of Lent, a time that invites us to take a look inward and reconnect with God as individuals and as a community, I thought it may be a good indicator of where we are at if we tried to take our spiritual temperature by observing social media posts throughout this week of excitement, boredom, family time, Sabbath, and survival.

            At the beginning of the week, people were excited for a day of rest and eager for a week long break. One of you posted this picture, of a beautiful snow filled backyard, seen through the window of your sewing room. On Monday, things were just lovely.

<SHOW SLIDE ONE>

            But by Tuesday, work places were eager to reopen for business which meant employees would have to brave the snow in order to get there. One of you posted this picture, as you convinced yourself to get out and shovel the driveway.

<SLIDE TWO>

            And by Wednesday, things had really gone downhill. There was a video of a young child’s temper tantrum because his favorite show had not come on PBS, there were mothers claiming they had lost all sanity, but one of you captured it perfectly, when you posted this photo, which I especially loved as Willie & I have a special place in our hearts for the Madea film series.

<SHOW SLIDE THREE>

            During the season of Lent we are going to study the seven deadly sins, and our first, today, is sloth. It seems appropriate the week after we have all been stuck in our homes, to consider the ways we are lazy. But if anything, I am convinced this week that our culture has a complete intolerance for this particular sin. I would even venture to say that this would be our culture’s unforgiveable sin. You can be a glutton, you are encouraged to practice lust, at least if you turn on the tv it would indicate so, and pride is a tool for success, which I have learned by watching people move up in their workplaces. But in a culture, where we encourage individuals to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps, sloth is one sin we simply do not tolerate.

            Although, I wonder if in our culture of self starters, and the idolatry of commercial success, I wonder if we have become lazy in other areas of our life. As we begin this season of spiritual contemplation I wonder if it is our connection with God and possibly even our connections with one another that have suffered most from our work ethic. We value efficiency, hard work, technology, and while each of these can work for the good, I wonder if they have caused us to separate from God and from one another.

            None of these values are bad on their own. Technology has been a wonderful tool this week and one of my favorite things was seeing your snow day posts on our church facebook page and then seeing how Jeanie put them together for our church email. Hard work has fueled many of our outreach ministries like the food pantry and Room In the Inn.

            But today, I would ask us to consider the discipline of spirituality. If sin is defined as what separates us from God, I wonder what is it that connects us to God? There is service and community which I think we are pretty good at. But there is also solitude and silence, which I think many of us avoid like the plague and who could blame us in a culture that is crowded with so much noise.

As we begin the journey of Lent, on this Ash Wednesday/Sunday, our most important reminder is that we are dust and to dust we will return. Not to our work will we return… not to our accomplishments… not to our fears or our failures… to dust. The good news is that life is precious and that we are encouraged to take advantage of each moment of it. In our scripture for today, notice that the last few verses are in present tense; “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21

Lent is an invitation to discover what Barbara Brown Taylor calls “the treasure house that we can visit at any time.” We remember as ashes are smudged onto our forehead that life is short so make it count. So our study of sin throughout Lent is an opportunity, not to make you feel ashamed of your shortcomings, but is an invitation to make it count and to decide to make more visits to that treasure house of our faith.

            We do not talk a lot about sin in our tradition. And part of the reason for that is because many of you have come from traditions where you have been made to feel ashamed of who you are and it was been framed by language of sin. My hope for our study of sin is not that we will be ashamed but that we might reclaim the word for what it is and what it isn’t.

            Next week we will discuss how sin and shortcomings are a part of being human. They are not markers of our worth. If we can take some of the shame culture away from our conversation of sin, my hope is that we can be more honest about the ways we separate ourselves from God, in order to make room to grow closer to God.

            Each of us has our own vices. As one of our staff members said when I told them we were doing a sermon series on the seven deadly sins, “Oo! I’ll take one!”

            But in order for us to embark on this journey of contemplation and connection, we may have to discern the places where we have been a bit lazy.

Debby and I partnered with a colleague at my former congregation and came up with forty ways of connecting with God through Lent. The activities are mostly very simple, and doing them alone may not do much good. But I would encourage you to discuss the activities with your Sunday school class. Or journal about your experience in them each day.

            With all the demands on our time it is easy to become lazy in our faith. Going to church can be just the same old routine. Silence is exchanged for television. Heartbreak and grief cause us to fear being alone with our thoughts. But I wonder what could happen if we invested in our faith as if our whole lives depended on it. Not as an obligation but as an opportunity.

            Church, we have been snowed in, forced indoors, made to be still. What did you with your time? What do you wish you had done with your time? And what will you do when the snow melts and life returns to normal?

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