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Monday after Lent III–March 16, 2009

  • Posted on Mar 16, 2009

Urban Amish or Ubermotivated?

His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” John 2:17

Yesterday’s lectionary readings for the Third Sunday of Lent were intense. The Ten Commandments, Paul’s famous lines about the cross being a stumbling block, and Jesus turning over the tables in the temple. There was law and judgment bristling in the air. In the midst of the readings was Psalm 19. Lovely Psalm 19 that reminds us that “the law is perfect and revives the soul.” Say what?

In my sermon, I decided to argue that, yes indeedy, the law does revive the soul. And here’s my angle…the law is essential to combat one of the great temptations of human living…the sin of acedia. Say what times two? What was that word? ACEDIA. According to Kathleen Norris in her recent, intriguing book Acedia and Me, acedia was thought to be the eighth deadly sin—until the powers that be came up with seven. In its Greek root, acedia means “the absence of care.” A person afflicted with acedia refuses to care, but, more often than not, is incapable of doing so. Acedia was the great temptation of the ancient mothers and fathers of the desert. It is the great enemy of us all.

It seems to me that acedia can flourish not just in the solitude of self in the desert but in the solitude of self in the modern world. In fact, Norris writes that “acedia is not a relic of the fourth century or a hang-up of some weird monks, but a force we ignore at our peril…Our busyness can’t disguise the suspicion that we are being steadily diminished, not so much living as passing time in a desert of our own devising.”

In my sermon, I talked about the ubermotivated–how our blackberries and cells, our twittering and blogging (gulp), our FaceBooking and multitasking–can keep us so busy that we have no time to sift fact from fiction, the important from the unimportant, what we should care about from the irrelevant. How do we know where we should place our zeal and passion if we don’t have any space to think about such things? That is assuming that we are not so tired from our hectic lifestyle that we have any energy left to summon up an iota of passion or zeal.

Of course, there is the way of the desert…becoming the urban Amish. I just heard about that term–it is someone who eschews electronic mediums for personal, old-fashioned forms of communication—letter writing, meeting in person. However, I don’t think this is totally realistic. First off, you’ll still have to deal with acedia because the monks of the ancient desert didn’t have any of these tools and still battled the “noonday demon.” More importantly, our electronic medium are hugely valuable communication tools. It would be folly on many levels to leave them by the wayside and separate oneself from the world. So…here’s the tragic gap topic for this week: What’s the middle ground between ubermotivated and urban amish? How do we battle the demon of acedia in this modern age? I think the law and tradition have a gift to give us. That’s my blogging topic for the third week of Lent. Stay tuned and tell me what you think.