The Lighthouse Keeper

Greetings from Pastor Kerry, former pastor of Spring City UMC. This blog contains my sermon outlines and/or manuscripts from my pastorate among the people of Spring City PA, from 2006 to 2011. Pastor Dennis is now the lighthouse keeper. Come and worship on Sundays at 10:00 a.m.!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

"I'll get around to it": Sloth and Zeal (7DS 2/7)

The second in a series on the Seven Deadly Sins

February 25, 2007
First Sunday of Lent

from Romans 10:8-13 and 1 Peter 5:5-11

"The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work" – Prov. 21:25

My sermon outline:

• (recap of intro): Lenten series on 7 deadly sins, somewhat dovetailing with Wednesday series on temptations of Jesus. Goes back to early church fathers (1500 years ago) talking about those sins or attitudes that we gateway sins, that would lead to other and various sins. Seven habitual sins that require serious change of heart to counter.

• Not like the spiritual gifts (which everyone has at least one of) although chances are you struggle with or at least identify with a few of these. Hopefully you’re victorious over them. If you do struggle with one or more of them it means you’re human and you’re in the right place. If you don’t then to whom much has been given much is required, and the rest of us are looking to you to help us overcome, and will also rely on your humility :) My prayer for us all is that we would allow ourselves to be led by God to examine our lives, our habits and our priorities, and that we would allow God’s spirit to work within us, purifying us of those things in our lives that do not lead to Life, but instead lead to destruction.

• Incidentally there is a traditional order of the sins, however I chose an order loosely based on the recommended scriptures for the week, and found out I came out okay.

• Last week we focused on gluttony, the sin that makes a god of food or eating. It’s a sin of excess, of overindulgence, countered by faith and by self-control. I lifted up how God provided for the children of Israel in the wilderness, not only feeding them their daily bread but teaching them to rely on God.

• Today’s focus is the sin of sloth (or slowth). Unlike gluttony, which is a sin of commission, of action, of overindulgence, sloth is more a sin of omission, wherein something is left undone. If you’ve ever uttered the words “I’ll get around to it later,” or “I’ve been meaning to do that,” you have been guilty of sloth. If similar phrases frequently pass your lips, you may struggle with the deadly sin of sloth, and you may understand how it can be considered deadly, how difficult it is to remedy.

• There are different flavors of sloth. Historically it includes joylessness, depression, and or apathy. These indicate a lack of trust in God, a lack of loving God with all your heart your soul and your mind. If your life were a garden planted by God for the purpose of producing fruit, sloth inhibits growth, allows for weeds to take over, allows for bugs and rot to destroy what God purposed.

• If you look through the book of proverbs you’ll find more than a dozen references to “the sluggard”, which I believe could just as easily apply to “the sloth”. notice the habits:

Proverbs 24:30-34 I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.
I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest- and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

• Before I continue, I recognize that depression can be a result of a chemical imbalance in the body, and it may require medication and or counseling to deal with it. I know that, and it doesn’t make you a lesser person if you need meds or counseling to deal with depression. It also doesn’t let you off the hook: be diligent and watchful of your symptoms, and responsible in your actions and your treatment regimens.

• So joylessness, depression, apathy are some historical flavors of sloth. A word about apathy: a recent major study of the religious lives and habits of American teens describes the general teenager’s view of Christianity: benign positive regard. Means that in general, teens don’t care enough about Christianity to have a negative view of it. And guess where they learn that? At home. So you who are here, impress upon your children and upon your grandchildren that your religion, your faith practice, your love of God is not just some weird thing you do, but that it is the source of your strength and joy, that God is the reason for your existence, and that the fullest life is the life lived in the Spirit of Christ.

• There are other contemporary flavors of sloth, what I would call laziness and procrastination. Looking again to the Bible, we read that “A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing,” (Prov. 20:4). And Ecclesiastes 10:18: “If a man is lazy, the rafters sag; if his hands are idle, the house leaks.” Laziness is a person who deliberately and habitually chooses not to work, chooses not to pull their own weight but to let someone else do it. The hardest work a lazy person does is come up with ways to avoid work. Laziness is not necessary or deserved rest, but a deliberate lack of contribution, a deliberate avoidance of effort.

• I say deliberate to contrast the other flavor of sloth, procrastination, which I think can be a little more insidious because it is well-intentioned. The procrastinator doesn’t say “I won’t work, I won’t do that,” – they say “I’ll get around to that” or “I’ll do that later.” Well we all know the fruit of procrastination and good intentions, for it is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The procrastinator puts off perhaps cuz they don’t want to or can’t do it now, or perhaps because they intend to set up the perfect conditions to complete their task perfectly.

• Joylessness, depression, apathy, laziness, procrastination: several of the faces or flavors of the deadly sin of sloth.

• The counter virtue to the deadly sin of sloth is diligence – that is, hard work or work ethic – also known as zeal, or enthusiasm (which literally means God-inspired). It combines attitude with action, as Romans 10 (confess, believe)… it requires self-control and discipline and reliance on the God of grace (1 Pet 5)

• Perhaps one of the greatest ways to counter sloth goes back to God’s design for humanity in Genesis 2 when God said “It is not good for man to be alone.” We’re social creatures, made by God not to be solitary. The church is a body and its members are designed to work together for good and for the edification of others and the glory of God. Do you struggle with sloth? Follow the command of James 5:16: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other.” Heed the words of Paul in Galatians 6: “My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Make a covenant with a brother or sister in Christ, work on something together. If your weakness is you, ask that brother or sister to hold you accountable in love, to encourage your progress and to meet with you to succeed. Don’t let a day go by – tell me on the way out of church if you have to, but take action. Come to God as you are but don’t stay that way

• Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is he who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

• Walk with your brother or sister in Christ, and walk with your master and savior Jesus Christ: (hymn 430).

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 64 in worship. Mild.


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