the sin of gluttony

…put a knife to your throat
if you are given to gluttony.

Proverbs 23:2

Winn Collier in a helpful Our Daily Bread Ministries “Discovery Series” booklet entitled, “Walking Free: Overcoming What Keeps Us from Jesus,” covers the so called “seven deadly sins.” It is most helpful in both understanding the actual sins, and what we can do about it, with an accent on God’s grace. See that for an excellent summary look into each, including gluttony.

Gluttony it turns out is more about trying to satisfy the God-vacuum of our hearts with other things, food being just one of them. Of course the actual term gluttony has primarily to do with food, as does fasting.

We want more and more of what’s pleasurable, of what we like. When all the time the greatest pleasure is God and to be in God’s presence. What  is actually the case is that we’re replacing the greatest pleasure, the actual worship of God for what ends up being idolatrous pleasures, such as satisfying our every desire, whatever that might be.

Gluttony is probably akin to greed which is listed in the New Testament as a deadly sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). In the Roman Catholic teaching, it along with the other seven sins is listed as a basic sin (not deadly) from which other sins derive. Gluttony ends up being a kind of substitute for the worship and practice of loving God. Instead we’re all taken up with our own cravings, warped as they are due to our sin. And whenever we violate loving God, not loving our neighbor will follow:

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.

Ezekiel 16:49

Food and all the other of God’s gifts to us is not the culprit. It’s our own brokenness in putting the gifts above the Giver. We are indeed given all things richly to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17b). But we are good at becoming obsessed over whatever in the place of God.

Thankfully God is present to help us find our way back to him with repentance and a renewed commitment to leave behind what is destructive to us and to others. To find all that we long for in God, while we enjoy God’s good gifts to us. In and through Jesus.

 

prayer for Friday after Ash Wednesday

Support us, O Lord, with your gracious favor through the fast we have begun; that as we observe it by bodily self-denial, so we may fulfill it with inner sincerity of heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

 

feasting, having a good time, enjoying life

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

1 Timothy 6

People often seem to think that God, or the notion of God and faith is nothing but a killjoy, when in reality, God is the author of all joy. God wants us to enjoy life, to enjoy him, to enjoy each other, to enjoy creation. We should, if we don’t have good reasons not to, be able to enjoy a drink if we like, to feast, to have fun, or the old term I like better, merriment. Of all people on earth we who are God’s people ought to enjoy life the most.

Of course we follow our Lord in the way of the cross, in the way of death and resurrection. And for us, we will indeed fast (not that I do it much if at all anymore, though I probably ought to) or make sacrifices, the biggest of all being the sacrifice of ourselves to God through Jesus’ sacrifice for us, living as those whose lives are completely given over to Jesus and the gospel in the good and perfect will of God.

But we need to celebrate as well, actually celebrating in a way no others can since we are those who through death experience something of the very life of God, something we are to take hold of with all of our will and might in this life. Which includes confession of our sin as we inevitably fall short of that. But continuing on come what may.

Enjoying God’s goodness given to us everywhere actually in and through Jesus.

The post which spurred these thoughts: Boredom and a Whole Lot More… by R.J. Snell.

Lent and the joy and peace that comes in the righteousness that Christ gives

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

In the context, this is about disputable matters within the church, between brothers and sisters in Christ. And in the course of life, we all run into it.

Lent is a time of seeking to draw near to the Lord in an attitude of penitence for sin. But the passage in Romans 14 and 15 very much is a part of this, since the Lenten season is a church season. What we do at its heart has not only to do with us, but with the Lord and with others in the Lord. And beyond that, it also has to do with everyone else. We’re not islands. Out of love we live, the love of God, which results and is to do so in love for God, for God’s family in Jesus of which we’re a part, and love for everyone else, including our enemies. The passage just named explicitly bears that out (and the end of Romans 12 brings in enemies).

Yes, Lent should be a time of painstaking prayer and reflection, openness to whatever the Lord may put on our hearts, working through the hard things in the midst of the fellowship, being open through that to personal change in confession of sin and repentance. And fastings are traditionally a part of it, though not like as in the past. So it ends up being an intense time that can easily result in sorrow over sin, as well as a kind of desert like experience in seeking the Lord and the Lord’s will.

But in the midst of all of that, at least here and there we should begin to experience a settled peace and joy in the righteousness through the Holy Spirit that Christ brings. Like the disciples of old we don’t go it alone. Jesus is with us, as we follow.

Lent and fasting

I am not that well acclimated to either Lent or the practice of fasting. Scot McKnight’s book on fasting is the best treatment I know on the subject in which he makes the case from scripture that fasting is essentially a response to something, perhaps one’s sins, some happenings, or anticipation of God’s promises being fulfilled in a given situation. It has been a while since I’ve read my copy, but this gets at something of the summary of his scripture based suggestion, which actually is different than how it has been and is taught. Just an all around good book, which covers the angles from scripture, as well as gives words of warning and advice to those who maybe shouldn’t fast at all, and to the rest of us.

I have to acknowledge that I’ve not practiced fasting, at least for many years, and I’m hardly acclimated at all to the practice of Lent. We are creatures who not only need food for physical sustenance, but we enjoy the fellowship that can come with it, whether (preferably, I say) at the table, or in our chairs in the same room. But there is a season for fasting as well as feasting.

I particularly see fasting as helpful during a time when I want to be in engaged ongoing prayer over a matter, usually of grave concern. Since I’m not used to the practice, I try to make up for it in other ways. One way or another I want to give myself to the matter at hand in prayer to God. And keep on praying until I have some sense of release and peace on the matter. Not meaning that I won’t continue to pray about it.

There is no getting around the fact that Lent itself is to be a season of fasting of some sort. Just how we’re to practice that is often not prescribed, unless you’re part of some circles, and today compared to the history of the church, is relatively lax. It amounts to a period of 40 days of fasting, some giving up meats or what not (chocolate?), with the goal of somehow or another participating in Lent as we think of our Lord’s sufferings and death for us and look forward to his resurrection. Knowing that Jesus’ death and resurrection is not only our salvation, but that salvation takes us into something of that reality in this life.

Lent

Tomorrow begins the season of Lent, a time of preparation, 40 days before the celebration of Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday, on which we will receive the mark of the cross from ashes on our forehead to signify our mortality as well as our repentance from sin and dependence on Jesus’ death for us, or we could say, on the basis of Jesus’ death for us. During Lent Christians traditionally carry on purposeful fasts.

Being forty days, approximately six weeks and just over a tenth of the year, Lent can seem long for those who see it as simply a time of giving up something. But that time can help us get into new rhythms of living, helping some replace what is not good with something good. For example some people may have addictions of one kind or another. I wonder if in some way most all of us struggle to some extent with something that may not even be bad in itself, and may give us some relief from the normal stress of everyday life. But find ourselves attached to it to the point that we can hardly let it go. While it may be okay, it also may be crowding out some things that are more important. We might do well during Lent to address that in some way. It may be a small way, but it may help set us on a better path which can continue afterward.

And there’s the idea of purposeful sacrifice. Perhaps cutting back or cutting out this or that luxury and setting the money aside normally spent on that to help the poor in some way. This most often is something personal and individual, but it could be a good exercise for a family, to help ingrain in the children something of this practice.

I look forward to the season of Lent as part of a liturgical church, Prince of Peace Anglican Church. For me, this will be a learning process, even though at our last church we did practice both Ash Wednesday and Lent. I was raised in a non-liturgical church, for years being part of those kinds of churches. So the instruction and practice that comes with such seasons is something relatively new to me. And I have in mind what I want to do during Lent.

Above all, in all of this we want to reflect on our Lord’s suffering, the meaning of his death and resurrection, and our identification with that as part of our salvation in this present life. So that with Paul we might say this:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

fasting’s end

Isaiah 58 is a fascinating chapter. It speaks of the fast (abstaining from food for a time) God accepts in the context of Israel of old. They continued in their religion, professing faith in and devotion to God. They did so with what might be called “spiritual disciplines” today. They seemed eager to hear God’s voice. Seemed to humble themselves in religious practice. But none of this changed their lives. The life change God is looking for in the chapter was with reference to others. They continued to oppress and take advantage of others. And they fought among themselves. They were lacking in the love God calls his people to.

The only fast God accepted was a fast to loose the chains of injustice. To do good to the poor and oppressed. To do what is right by all, in love. Fasting that led to that life change was meaningful to God.

I have found the spiritual disciplines helpful. It has been well said that they are not ends themselves, but means to the end. We need to be in God’s revelation in scripture fulfilled in Jesus to understand what that end is. In spite of criticism I’ve read from one I highly respect, I do think that Christian traditions which make regular use of spiritual disciplines, do tend to do better in serving others. I am thinking of traditional disciplines of the church at large, such as lectio divina, chanting the psalms, silence, etc. But that person does have a point. The true end cannot be taken for granted, and too easily and regularly means can become ends.

I do think there’s a clear and present danger of being quite devoted to doing religious things, or what my tradition might call Christian things, such as “devotions” in Bible reading, meditation, and prayer. But seeing little or no life change at all. Of course if we can have a true guide in the way of Jesus to help us in our Bible reading or devotions, then all well and good. That should help. Someone or something to help us keep the true end of active love present before us. Daily, regular recitation of “the Jesus Creed” can help.

The point I’m trying to make is that we must keep the end in view–of loving God with our entire being and doing, and of loving our neighbor as ourselves. These two as commands seemed joined. We can’t do one right, without doing the other I take it. Or at least for God’s people in Jesus the two are most definitely joined. Actually scripture is plain enough on this.

It is not so that we might feel better, or have inward peace. That is not enough, though a good start- or better yet, that has its place. But that is to be extended to others. We must not forget that we are blessed to be a blessing. We love God and humanity, meaning people who are our neighbors, who we have contact with–I’m trying to say real people around us, not just some people we don’t know thousands of miles away–because God first loved us. And the love is active. We seek to love others, as God has and continues to love us, in and through Jesus.