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Archive for June, 2013

Life Notes—June 27, 2013 

“O Lord, Father and God of my life, do not give me haughty eyes, and remove evil desire from me.  Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me, and do not give me over to shameless passion.”  Sirach 23:4-6

At my home I am the trash man.  Every Tuesday evening I empty the various trash cans throughout our home and take our large trash container down to the road for collection on Wednesday morning.  Another part of the job is removing food that has passed its prime from our refrigerators.  Most weeks I throw away a quantity of food equivalent to what might normally feed us for another day or two.  Just as bad as or worse than the food I throw out is the food I consume, which is consistently more than I need for sustenance.  When I was a child I was taught to clean my plate, meaning to eat everything I had been given so nothing went to waste, a practice that has been hard to break as an adult.  Of course, excess food that is consumed may not go to waste, but to my waist!

The second of the seven deadly sins is gluttony.  Gluttony can be defined as the over-indulging in or over-consuming of anything to the point of being wasteful.  One reason the excess desire for food is considered sinful is because what we consume beyond our need is, in theory at least, food that is not available for the poor and hungry.  Indeed, as a child being told to clean my plate, the reason given was that there were starving children elsewhere in the world that would love to have the food I didn’t want (never mind that I would’ve been happy to send them my broccoli). The underlying trait for gluttony is selfishness, or placing priority for my own satisfaction above concern for the well-being or need of those around me.  Thomas Aquinas, a medieval church leader, listed six ways to commit gluttony, including eating too soon, eating too expensively, eating too much, eating to eagerly, eating too daintily and eating wildly.  While I don’t remember ever eating daintily, I am probably guilty of the other five ways several times each week!

But if we restrict our understanding of gluttony only to food, we probably let ourselves off too easily.  Like lust, gluttony is a sin of excess and can manifest in many different areas of our lives.  Whenever we are too stingy in sharing our blessings—be they time, money, talents or other commonly-needed attributes—we run the risk of succumbing to gluttony.  The verse above is from a book in the Apocrypha, a collection of books similar to those in the Bible that were not included in the official biblical literature.  We are called to be generous in sharing our blessings.  We came into this world with nothing, and we will leave with nothing.  In between, we are to share what we have been given.

Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Our west campus has two worship services at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Where may gluttony be separating me from God?

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Life Notes—June 20, 2013 

“His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.”  2 Peter 1:3-4

When I was a child there was always some toy I simply had to have.  As I entered adolescence my desires became more relational in nature.  I began noticing the various degrees and types of beauty in members of the opposite sex and I desired to have a girlfriend.  It could have been body shape or hair or smile or a mannerism that caught my eye.  And I would believe she was all I needed for contentment.  But as with all types of surface beauty there is always someone or something more beautiful and intriguing.  But my wants found their most lasting manifestation in a desire for musical instruments. I have many interesting and beautiful instruments, most of which collect dust and take up space.  I may become obsessed with a new guitar because of its wood or tone or the way it feels in my hands and I’ll think, “Wow, this is the last guitar I’ll ever need—it’s perfect!”  But of course, it is never perfect forever.  Useful? Yes.  Beautiful? Yes.  Provide lasting contentment? No.  Contentment is not found in the ‘stuff’ of the earth.

Desire and passion are natural and healthy and necessary parts of our lives.  They color and animate everything we do.  But lust takes a natural appreciation for beauty or utility and perverts it into an unhealthy obsession.  Lust is a corrupting influence that knocks our lives out of balance.  It sets us outside the realm of the normal and isolates us from those around us.  It drives us to work too many hours, to betray vital relationships, to hoard things well beyond usefulness.  Lust can lead us to social isolation and even to jail; if not to an actual correctional facility, then to an imprisonment of the mind.

Lust is desire on steroids—intense, relentless and all-consuming. Lust often manifests itself in sexual desires, but it is hardly limited to sex.  Lust also manifests in desires for power or money or fame.  It is a sin of degree, as a desire for enough of life’s blessings is natural and healthy.  It becomes a sin when our lust negatively impacts our relationships and infects important parts of our lives. Lust deceives us into believing a new relationship or job or guitar is what is missing in our life.  And when it causes us to give up on or risk something of true value already present in our life it becomes sinful—a deadly sin because lust leads us into a cycle of insatiable desire for that which is temporal and unhealthy.  Such a cycle can be difficult to break or control, often requiring professional assistance and a great deal of prayer.  As in the scripture above, we are called as “participants of the divine nature.”  We separate ourselves farther from that divine nature when our desires escalate to lustful obsessions.  Next week I will explore the next of the seven deadly sins, gluttony.

Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Our west campus has two worship services at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  If we must lust for something, lust for the Lord.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Life Notes—June 13, 2013 

“When you were slaves to sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed?  The end of those things is death.  But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification.  The end is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death…”  Romans 6:20-23a

The prevalence of sin is a central tenant in Christianity.  It is seen as an act of defiance of God’s will and is described as that which separates us from God.  The Bible lists many sins throughout its various books, but seldom formally categorizes one sin as worse than another.  If sin separates us from God, then we are separated from God regardless of our specific sin.  God’s forgiveness of our sins through repentance, regardless of the nature of our sin, also seems to lend credence to the thought that a sin is a sin is a sin.  But that offends our understanding of justice, because surely one who sins by failing to tell his wife exactly how much the TV for his man-cave cost, an act of arguable deceit, cannot have separated himself nearly as far from God as a mass murderer.  Even so, the Bible distinguishes the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17).  There is also an unpardonable sin described in Matthew 12:32b: “…whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”  This sin is considered unpardonable because it denies the very route (Holy Spirit) to God for forgiveness.

The Seven Deadly Sins are not found as a named group in the Bible.  Proverbs 6:16-19 lists “…six things the LORD hates,” but that list is not the same.  The Seven Deadly Sins track back to the 6th century and Pope Gregory I, but gained notoriety in Dante’s The Divine Comedy.  They are considered deadly, not because they are unforgivable or because they cause physical death, but because they are considered to be the root of all other sins.  They are also referred to as the capital vices.  The term capital means head or primary, so a deadly sin in this context is one that is a root of other sins.  What are the seven deadly sins?  They are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.  I will devote the next few Life Notes to exploring these sins in more detail, contemplating their manifestation in our lives.  As Paul wrote to the Romans, “…the wages of sin is death.” That does not mean immediate, physical death; rather that sin separates us from God.  And, apart from God, we cannot join in the eternal life promised those who believe.  Although Jesus interceded on our behalf on the cross, an understanding of the presence and nature of sin, particularly these primary sins, may help draw us closer to God.

Rev. Sharon Howell will preach downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch preaches at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. His sermon title is “My Peace I Give.”

Come home to church this Sunday.  Grow through fellowship with other children of God.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Life Notes—June 6, 2013 

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  John 15:12-13

We hear a lot about sacrifices made out of love for others.  Military personnel risk their lives on a daily basis out of love for their country.  Firefighters and law enforcers risk their lives out of love for their communities.  Jesus willingly gave up his earthly life out of love for us.  Stories of sacrificial love are inspirational; and we wonder at the sort of love that leads one to lay down their life for another, especially an unknown other.

Most of us live a relatively tame and safe lifestyle, thanks to the sacrifice of others who make it so.  And the thought of needing to lay down our life for another is foreign.  But that may be too limited an understanding of what it means to lay down our life for our friends.  In his essay The Leader as Servant, Robert Greenleaf discusses love in the context of community.  He writes, Love is an undefinable term, and its manifestations are both subtle and infinite. But it begins, I believe, with one absolute condition: unlimited liability!  As soon as one’s liability for another is qualified to any degree, love is diminished by that much.”  The context for these words has to do with our tendency to isolate those members of our community who, for various reasons, do not blend well into typical community structures.  He mentions orphanages, penal institutions, mental health hospitals, schools and nursing homes and notes that sometimes separating the constituents of these types of institutions from the greater community works against efforts to ever successfully incorporate them into it.

Greenleaf’s underlying message is one of love and community.  For a community to thrive it must work for all its members.  We cannot simply quarantine away those who do not easily fit, with the reasonable exception of those who pose a significant danger to the rest of the community.  But sometimes we quarantine folks because it is inconvenient to accept responsibility for them, even when they are family.  Thus, his concept of unlimited liability. If we accept unlimited liability for others there is simply nothing helpful and within our power we will not do for them.  Whether at home, at work or in the world.  And the difference in this type of laying down one’s life for another is not so much a willingness to die, as a willingness to inconvenience ourselves. Perfect love claims unlimited liability for another.  It simply will not give them up.

Rev. Sharon Howell will preach downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch preaches at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. His sermon title is “War No More,” based on Isaiah2:2-4.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Christ’s love responds to need, not convenience.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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