Monday, September 16, 2013

Sermon on Sloth and Diligence

Matthew 25:14-30

14“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.

Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents.

17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.

20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’

21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

26But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

You know this story and you have heard it many times. You have heard it at stewardship service – about risking giving, or during times when we look at the gifts and talents that we have.

This morning I want us to ponder this poor, fearful, lazy guy who did not work for the master. Instead he hid the talent in the ground. So while his companions where diligently trading and making more of what they were given. He did what? We actually don’t know what he did – but we know what he didn’t do.And so we call him lazy. Actually Jesus calls him lazy.

We know about laziness – doing less and less required, minimal work, less effort

* Melissa – tells a story of being a construction worker and people looking at the job they have done and say – good enough for government work

* Daughter who is a teacher tells me about teachers who keep using the same lesson plans

* One pastor never prepared during the week, and on Sunday morning he'd sit on the platform while the church was singing the hymns desperately praying, "Lord, give your message, Lord give me your message." One Sunday, while desperately praying for God's message, he heard the Lord say, "Ralph, here's my message. You're lazy!"

But actually lazy is probably not the right word here. A mis translation – better word is sloth – which Sloth is often related to the older latin idea of accidia – which is sometimes translated “spiritual weariness” or “despair”

We are in week 2 of a seven week sermon series on the deadly sins and today we focus on sloth – laziness – acedia. Not the outward manifestation – but the inword soul condition - Acedia, Spiritual torpor, indifference soul weariness

Dorothy Sayers – “it is not merely idleness of mind and laziness of body: it is that whole poisoning of the will which, beginning with indifference and an attitude of “I couldn’t care less” extends to te deliberate refusal of joy and culminated in morbid introspection and despair.”

Maybe this man was just weary - he was given a task and power and chose to bury it, to not risk or work.

- Was it because of Disillusionment – often from spiritual immaturity – I have been a “good person” and still I struggle.. Things didn’t turn out the way I expected and so I have lost my drive and motivation

- Was it Purposelessness – what is the point? Maybe fired up some time ago and nothing changed the way you thought it would – story about the social worker?

- Was his Inaction motivated by boredom, complacency and despair. And it is in despair that we start to believe things that are not true. The cup is half empty always. For this man – the master is hard, unforgiving, there is nothing he can do. Does he believe this? Maybe he is saying it to himself? The same way we say – that things can never change, we can never change, it is all bad so why try. Know folks who have stopped reading any news, voting, what difference does it make?

And so – sloth, or acedia is a lack of passion, it is something that happens slowly over time that we no longer get worked up about poverty or homelessness or hunger or war in the middle east. And by the same token we fail to see the beauty – the blessing of a bird at the bird feeder, the beauty of a rainbow, the majesty of Bach or the creativity of Mumford and Sons,

It is a spirit that reacts to cruelty, injustice and pain by shrugging the shoulders and switching the channel.

We can call it sloth, laziness, acedia, spiritual weariness, spiritual dryness, compassion fatigue – but it is nothing new

Psalm 42 – my soul is cast down within me, why are you cast down, O my soul and why are you disquieted within me?

And what I want to say is that this feeling – may not be depression, it may not be just a season that we are in – it may really be something that we need to look at within ourselves. It may be a stance that we have been “harboring” for years – underneath everything –our activity and the mask that we wear.

This sense of acedia –– Is that all there is? Is there a purpose to my life? To our life?

If we want to imagine the opposite of sloth, then Jesus fits the bill. We can never imagine the words “couldn’t be bothered” on his lips.
There was a life lived with passion, intensity, laughter, suffering, joy and pain, in which every person who came near seemed to matter.

And so we turn to him to seek a way out of this place of sloth, of ennuie, of despair. Our spiritual value is diligence – which is is translated – zeal, integrity, labor. Spiritual diligence is about doing the work of faith.

While we are not saved by good works, we are saved to do good works for the Kingdom of God . Paul explicitly affirms so in Ephesians 2:10, “[God] has “created [us] in Christ Jesus for good works, which [He] prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” And this way of life is a way of love – love for God, for each other, for ourselves.

It is to get out of ourselves and reach up and reach out to others. Diligence in love.

And that is why we come together this morning – to worship the living God. In very imperfect ways that may or may not speak to you. But trusting that somehow in the words that are spoken, the songs that are sung, the sacraments that are shared – somehow God’s presence gets through the wall of sloth, acedia, indifference. Somehow God’s presence helps us to get beyond ourselves and our “morbid introspection”

So that we might see that the talent we received from God was powerful and had a purpose beyond our own little lives.

Why do we worship? So that God’s power can break through us. So that we can lift our heads and our arms to God and find something more than US If we find ourselves in the grips of accidia, the mere act of remembering can be powerful. Remembering the realness of God’s grace that we have experienced in our lives.

And in this act maybe the greater purpose of our life can be seen. We are part of the body we have a part In the puzzle. My work and your work and his work and her work together make a picture – and the picture is the kingdom of God

We are working to help God to find a place where there is pure love. That’s our work And maybe what happens here, or in Bible study, or in personal devotions may move us to action The action of learning something new – as an antidote to boredom.

The action of responding to needs in our midst, in our community, in our world – knowing that our little bit can change someone – who can change something – which can change someone else. It truly is a domino effect

The action of creativity which is a form of hope – that God is doing something new in this world. And so the spiritual step for this week is not to work. It is to create - something. Because it is in our creativity (with God) that we are participating in the something NEW that God is doing.
This journey is a journey of transformation
Not from lazy to working
as much as from asleep to awake
from stopping to starting
from indifference to love


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