The season of Lent is a rich opportunity for self-examination that builds on the season of Epiphany. As the Light of the world has become brighter in the world since Christmas (much the way the sun has also), what does God’s Light reveal about who we are and how we see ourselves in light of God’s love and grace? How are our lives and our ministry grounded in God saying to us, “You are my beloved child?” How do we trust in God’s future for us? How do we hear God’s call to follow and serve the vision Jesus came to share?
This Lent, we shed light on both who we are called to be and what gets in the way of us following that call by examining what are popularly known as the Seven Deadly Sins. We are using the book Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung to both expand our awareness of the obstacles to a life of faith and to nurture healthier ways of building Christian character.
For centuries, the seven deadly sins or capital vices – Vainglory, Envy, Avarice, Anger, Lust, Gluttony and Sloth – have aided Christians as they have sought to grow deeper in their life of devotion to God through awareness of the sin that so easily entangles us. Unfortunately, they have too often been used to tell people simply what they are doing wrong rather than as ways to highlight how the vices control our lives rather than virtues. Virtues and vices are habits or character traits formed by repeated action over time until they become a part of who we are, Dr. DeYoung writes. A study of them can be “a catalyst for spiritual growth,” a pursuit of “moral excellence,” rather than an obsession with sin itself.
Our goal in this study, then, is NOT to beat ourselves up with guilt, but rather to look at these seven deadly sins and their remedies, as the subtitle of the book says. How does each of these sins control our lives? How have they shaped our character, and how have we “glitterized” them to the point that we are no longer aware of how they keep us from being who God wants us to be, that is, how are they deadly to us? Understanding the vices in our lives and choosing instead to live into the virtues is a liberating experience that not only reveals the sin but shows us the grace by which we can live differently and faithfully. “To flee vice is the beginning of virtue,” the ancient Greek philosopher Horace said.
2 Peter 1:3 tells us that God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” What does that life look like in us? What does godliness look like in us? How do we trust in and live by God’s divine power to be people of character? In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” Our character matters for the fruit our lives produce, and how we live shapes our character. It’s my hope that the Light of world will free us through this Lenten journey to receive the good news: Christ has broken the power of sin. He has been raised to new life. That is God’s gift and intention for our lives, to be live by God’s power.
I hope you will join us for worship and study each week, starting Sunday, March 2. Adult Forum will discuss a chapter in Glittering Vice each week on Sundays (9:30am), Wednesdays (7:30pm) and Thursdays (10:00am). Ash Wednesday, March 5, we focus on the root or source of these vices, Pride, as we receive ashes and share the Lord’s Supper together. And, each Wednesday night (7-7:30pm), a mid-week service of prayer and contemplation will be held. Through it all, I pray that we have the courage to flee vice and know God’s power for life and godliness in and through us.
~Chip Low, Pastor