Father Pomroy preached on sloth today, one of the seven deadly sins.
Sloth, he explained, is not the same as laziness. Sloth is being lukewarm about God. A slothful person is ambivalent and unenthusiastic, and he will will, one day, be rejected by God (the actual phrase from Revelation is more graphic: He will “spew” the lukewarm from His mouth). Sloth enervates, drugs, and in the end, destroys the soul.
It is easy, I thought, to slide through life with little thought about God. It often takes a grave illness or crisis in one’s life to wake up. In the meantime, duty has called many to Sunday worship, to regular examination of conscience, to love of one’s family and neighbor, indeed to repentance. But duty has largely been abandoned in today’s culture.
So we become slothful, and encouraged to be so. We look out for ourselves and attend church when we have nothing better to do, when we feel like it. One day, we shall be spewed out from God’s presence.
In the Anglican Church, as in many others, we have disciplines and “days of obligation” (attendance at Mass.) These form a framework for our lives; they encourage us in our spiritual growth, even when we do not “feel” like it. And, I have found, that when I follow these disciplines, I do grow and I do become enthusiastic and, both slowly and suddenly, I am filled with boundless joy.
I begin with my feet plodding the earth, dragging myself to Sunday Mass. I leave, having tasted Heaven, angel wings lifting me along the path. Such a transformation.
And so it was today, this Seventh Sunday after Trinity, an ordinary summer Sunday in July when folks were camping and hiking and swimming and enjoying the outdoors. I entered the large dim nave, and knelt to say my prayers, praying for my family and friends, a list that seemed very long this morning. So many were hurting, so many lost, so many despairing. Then I turned to the Psalms for the day in the Book of Common Prayer, and “prayed” the Psalms. These ancient prayers are filled with every emotion and I find myself grateful to have these poetic words to hold onto. Then, as I looked up at the green tented tabernacle on the altar, I heard the organ play the opening chords for the processional hymn.
The hymn is one of my favorites:
Ye holy angels bright,
Who wait at God’s right hand,
Or through the realms of light
Fly at your Lord’s command,
Assist our song,
For else the theme
Too high doth seem
For mortal tongue.
(Richard Baxter, 1672, and John Haptden Gurney, 1838)
The tune is called Darwall (John Darwall, 1779) and is as bright and uplifting and delightful as the words. Already I was soaring and the service was only beginning. I waited expectant, knowing now that each minute would be filled with God.
We heard the Scripture lessons and Father rose to preach. As I listened to him I smiled at the different ways in which he expressed the same truth: dancing Christians versus creeping Christians, seeking and finding and being “caught” by God, bound by love to God. I was astounded at the simple truth of it, for I had moved from sloth to adoration within one hour. The contrast was immense and I feared for those who were still in the land of sleep. Would they wake up? Would they know what I had known?
The sacred liturgy continued, and as we received Christ into our souls and bodies, our individual joys became one, and the Body of Christ breathed as a single living organism.
I left Saint Peter’s today changed as always, having partaken of Heaven itself, and I prayed that I would never ever ever be lukewarm about God, that I would always dance to the lilting melodies of His angels. The experience was too beautiful and exquisite to miss one single second, but I knew that duty and discipline would tide me over when I fell once again into sloth.
http://www.saintpetersoakland.com/, Sunday Eucharist, Sermon and Church School at 10:00.