Monday, September 16, 2013

Two Down - Five to Go

The two that are down are gluttony and sloth - with lust, wrath, pride, envy and greed to go.
I am preaching on the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues this fall and it is definitely challenging me.

What I have learned so far is that whatever you think the sin is - superficially - it is so much more. And for me in the preparation, it is definitely a time of self examination as I struggle. I definitely believe that this spiritual journey is one of change and transformation, but I also know that it is not easy to see yourself and what you don't want to see.

Just want to basically recap what I am learning. First about gluttony - it is not about over eating as much as over consuming. We have gluttony about lots of things beyond food. And it does seem to have a relationship to spiritual hunger that we are trying to fill as well as uncomfortable feelings we are trying to numb. The trouble with gluttony in terms of eating is that we are literally too full physically and we often have not really appreciated and savored the blessing of eating. I ended this sermon with what I called a "spiritual step" to guide us - and it was not to fast - but to eat mindfully. Here is what I said
" Maybe a whole day, or a meal, or maybe just an apple or a banana. Eat Focus on each mouthful. Think about the flavour, texture and even the sound of the food in your mouth. Focus on how much you like, or dislike these sensations.
Think about the process of growth from seed to fruit, Think of the persons who were part of your pleasurable meal – those who grew it, delivered it, sold it,
Think of the miracle of your body and all that is happening as you chew, swallow and receive this gift.
Think about God in all of it. And this much I know – there will be no gluttony in this meal. Only grace."

I struggle with this because so often I do eat compulsively. What I keep learning about the spiritual life is that it is about slowing down in every way. Seeing, Hearing and TASTING the goodness of life - mindful of God.

I will post my sermon from yesterday on Sloth and diligence. What I learned here is that sloth is more than laziness. In fact, I think the "laziness" that we often indulge in can come from a "spiritual weariness" which is called "Acedia." It is easy to fall into an attitude of "I couldn't care less" and "whatever" and "same old, same old" and a sense that we have no power to change a situation so why bother. But the answer isn't get off the couch and get going - any more than the answer to gluttony is push yourself away from the table.
It really is to find a way to get in touch with the source of life that keeps creating and keeps loving.

The only answer is hope. Interestingly for me, as I work with these "deadly sins" I am also participating in a 30 day retreat on "The Cloud of Unknowing" and on Sunday morning the prayer was this:

On our journey into the cloud of unknowing
And union with God
There are some things that we must do for ourselves,
And some things
That God,
And only God,
Can and must do for and in us.

Of the work that belongs to God alone
I prefer not to speak,
I dare not speak.

But let us speak of the work that falls to us.

Our task is the hard and unending one
Of putting behind us,
Of consigning to a cloud of forgetting
All that must be put aside
If we are to approach
The cloud of unknowing, if we are to love God and God alone.

This is our task.
Everything else belongs to God
And God alone.
To do this,
Even with the help of great grace
Requires hard labor on our part.

But if you work hard,
If you press on
In the task of leaving behind
All that stands between you and God,
And beat relentlessly upon the cloud of unknowing,
Then God, I promise you,
Will not fail you.

But he is waiting for you
To do your part.

All through the Day

Love is our task;
Everything else is up to God.

There is work that we are to do - and it is the "work of love." And loving others and my sinful self is work but I am grateful for the "cloud of unknowing" that enables me just to rest in not knowing but trusting in a love that I don't have to manage or earn - just receive.

Anyway I write this blog - finally after three weeks of not writing (sloth!) as an act of creativity. That was the spiritual step I suggested yesterday to the congregation. To overcome sloth - maybe we don't have to "work" maybe instead it is creating - or co creating with our always creating God. Remembering that wonderful statement of hope - God is doing a new thing! Today. With me. With you.

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