Category Archives: Knitting

How gluttony becomes a sin

Good morning, Church Family, I am Susan Smith, the associate pastor and I know you are all as tired of the cold and snow as I am, but we are looking forward to Spring like weather this week.  

Sadly, though a quick google search reveals the behaviors of people partying with drinks in hand and an old phrase comes to mind:  They are just gluttons for punishment

Today we are looking at the sin of gluttony.  The word itself gets caught in your throat as you say it, and chances are that when you say it pictures pop up in your mind that show wild beach parties, office parties where the alcohol flows freely, or possibly an image of a patron going through a buffet line with two plates piled high.

How easy it is to feel self-righteous when we think about gluttonous behaviors of others.  We don’t do that do we?  Or do we have gluttony in our lives?

As we begin looking closely at gluttony and how it is a sin that we accept in our daily lives, let’s take a moment to collect ourselves.  Grab your Bibles, your note supplies, and join me with a prayer:

Dear Lord God our Father,

Quiet our minds from all that floods us–the weather, the pandemic, our relationships, and our daily lives.  Open our ears to your whispers as we reflect on our lives and how easy it is to sin.  Open our hearts to forgive ourselves so we can heal and transform our lives so we may truly live a Christ-centered life.  In your name we pray, amen.

Typically the subject of gluttony does not pop up in our daily conversation therefore let’s begin with looking at what our culture defines as gluttony

“Gluttony is the habit of eating and drinking too much.”  Such a simple definition.  Now remember I am a retired English teacher and one of my personal interests is to understand the background of a word so I go to an online etymological dictionary.

There I found a few interesting pieces to share:

  • Glutton first was used in early 13th century and evolved from an Old French word meaning “one who eats and drinks to excess”.
  • Glutton is related to the term ‘scoundrel’ which is a general term of abuse in Modern French.
  • Glutton evolved from the Latin term gluttonem meaning overeater

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, when I hear the term gluttony it triggers an old cliché, “Glutton for punishment.”  And from the entry in that etymological dictionary there is another point to learn about that phrase.  The old phrase we use in casual conversation moves the original definition of glutton referring to eating and drinking and expanded it to anything to excess.  That broadens gluttony to an entirely different mindset–anything to excess.

Gluttony is a behavior that separates us from God–and that is the sin.  Gluttony is a behavior that takes over our personal discipline and puts self before God–and that is the sin.

I am not trying to guilt trip any of you into saying that you are sinful, I am just trying to establish why gluttony is considered one of the deadly sins.  Honestly, I have long struggled understanding gluttony as a sin and wondered why anyone would say that overeating is a sin as I have always battled weight.  Isn’t overeating the trigger for gaining weight?

Using the Life Application Study Bible, I turned to the back and looked up gluttony.  Here I found a slightly different definition for gluttony that helped guide me to better understanding how a behavior can slide into sin:  one given habitually to greedy and voracious eating and drinking.

During the Ash Wednesday service, the message focused on pride as a sin that can easily become accepted as okay in our daily lives.  Still pride, like gluttony, becomes sin when it separates us from God.  When anything, not just eating and drinking, takes over our willpower and interrupts the very disciplines that keep us connected to God, we slip into a sinful pattern of behaviors.

John Wesley created methods to keep believers connected to God thereby avoiding sin.  He believed we should follow practices that held us accountable for our behaviors.  

When developing a personal relationship with God, Wesley felt it was essential to read scripture and pray daily.  He believed that one should attend worship regularly, to fast, and to maintain healthy living–remember he even wrote a health manual.  He also developed small groups in which members were accountable about their faith to each other: sharing faith within that group but also openly with others.

As I continued studying gluttony, I returned to my concordance.  There I found  only three references to gluttony:  Proverbs 23:20, Matthew 11:19, and Titus 1:12.  Not only just three references but three verses.

First, I noticed only one was in the Old Testament, Proverbs 23:20:  

“Do not be among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat.”

In all the various definitions this is the first reference to the type of foods that are included in gluttony.  The reference to winebibbers is more familiar as we think of the definitions referring to drinking too much which we now usually refer alcoholic beverages.  But, the old Jewish laws were very particular about what one could eat.

Matthew 11:19:

“. . . the son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!. . . “

In this verse’s reference to gluttony is even in reference to Jesus himself.  No longer bound by the ancient Law of Moses, Jesus ate and drank with even those who were not Jewish, who were not living under the Law of Moses.  

The act of eating and drinking is not gluttony, and in this story, Jesus’ behaviors among tax collectors and sinners becomes a model for Christian living.  There is no separation from God in the practice of eating, drinking and sharing with others.  The sin is when gluttony causes us to break our relationship with God, to turn our actions into those that cause pain and loss of one’s Christian disciplines as Wesley defined with the acts of piety.  

The third reference to the term glutton is also found in Paul’s letter to Titus who was left to serve in Crete. 

Titus 1:12–“it was one of them, their very own prophet who said, “Cretans are always liars, icious brutes, and lazy gluttons.”

Paul was warning Titus to be alert to the motives of those pretending to be Christians in order to get “more money, business, or a sense of power” as the study notes in Life Application Study Bible notes (p. 2717):

These three references to gluttony in the Bible builds up our understanding how gluttony can interfere in our lives even in today’s culture.  As we take the next few weeks to reflect on how well we are living our Christian faith publicly and privately, we need to consider how gluttony can creep into our lives and disrupt our relationship with God.

I admit.  I myself had to work with scripture and spend some time thinking about how gluttony could be sinful.  Then I started going through my own history and I discovered that gluttony is not always about eating and drinking too much.  Gluttony is anything that separates me from God.  Anything–not just food and drink.  Anything.

My stash of yarn.  Oh oh, I began to realize that knitting could be contributing to a shift in my Christian discipline. I am tactile and love natural fibers.  I struggle with so many new fabrics that have only synthetic fibers.  As I began knitting, I discovered a passion for looking at, touching, and purchasing various types of yarn.  In the knitting world, the yarn that one purchases and puts away for future projects is known as a stash.  

Every time I went into a store that had yarn, I was pulled to walk through the aisles looking and touching them imagining them knitted into a scarf or a wrap or a baby blanket.  The yarn was beautiful, it was ‘calling’ me.  I began searching for yarn shops, just to go look, and would come home with sale items or a skein that was so beautiful or soft that surely I could find a way to use it.

The truth is out now.  But I also have to tell you the rest of the story.  I had to stop and reflect on my pull to yarns.  I realized I could justify it because I bought it on sale, or I knew it was a color so-and-so would like, or it was a yarn that was difficult to find such as bamboo or silk, or it was given to me.  I could justify the purchases, what I did not realize is that it was causing me to make unhealthy choices in relation to how I was using my resources.

This shifts the discussion about gluttony as a behavior to how it becomes sinful.  Anything we do to excess, anything that becomes such a habit that we lose our focus on God can turn into a sin.  As we continue into Lent as the season for personal Christian reflection, we have the perfect opportunity to consider if we have a form of gluttony that is separating us from God.

Another example that I think many of us can relate to is our fascination with our favorite sports team’s swag.  As we watched and cheered for the Chiefs these last few months, we found ourselves drawn to those tee shirts, the team’s swag, and the memorabilia.  In fact I have the “Run it back” flag still flying outside my front door.

Team spirit seems so innocent, good fun.  What could be wrong with a new tee shirt?  But consider those fans who place team spirit into an entire lifestyle, not just for themselves, but for our entire family.  The news shares their stories and the pictures.  We recognize these fans as ‘superfans’, but God knows everything.  God knows whether they are superfans or whether they have stepped over the line and the mania reaches a sinful level separating them from God, possibly even destroying their own family relationships 

Today, February 21, we stop and review what is controlling our lives.  Have we maintained the very practices that Wesley developed to guide us in growing stronger in our faith?  

  • Are we reading scripture, studying it, reflecting or meditating on it, discussing it with others?
  • Are we in conversation with God through formal and informal prayers?
  • Are we fasting, which is a discipline that subtracts or adds in a change to our daily routine for a set timeframe such as Lent?
  • Are we attending worship services regularly?
  • Are we living a healthy lifestyle?
  • Are we sharing our faith with others?

During the week, our pastor suggested a reading from the gospel of John.  He broke the passage of John 4:1-45 into three readings which includes the story of the Woman at the Well.  The middle section, verses 31-38 speaks to how our true nourishment comes from God:

“Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving[a] wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

This scripture teaches us that nothing is more satisfying or fulfilling than our relationship with God.  Jesus tells the disciples that he does not need food because it is God that takes care of him:  

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. . . “

Then he asks them that they, too have work to do using the metaphor of planting and harvesting:

“. . . But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.  The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life . . .I sent you to reap . . .

God created us, he loves us, he waits for us, and he grants us grace for when we sin.  Our lives are filled with influences and interests that capture our attention and can easily step in between God and us. Let us carefully consider whether we need to make adjustments in our lives to reconnect or to strengthen our relationship with God.  

And God sends us out to reap.  We are called to share our faith with others just as Wesley asks us to do.  We are to avoid the gluttonous behaviors that get between us and God, but also we are to step out and help others to find that God is the food that satisfies the souls. 

Let us use this Lenten season to reset our practices, define our priorities, and rebuild the relationship with God so we can be disciples of Christ, so that we may live that others may know Jesus.  We know the joy of God’s grace and mercy.  We anticipate the life of salvation that leads to eternal life.  Let us be gluttonous with God’s love.

Will you join me in a personal prayer:

Dear patient and loving God, I know that I have been weak and allowed this world to step between you and me.  Speak to me, guide me, and forgive me as I work to listen and to strengthen my faith in you.  It is through your grace, through your son Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit, I pray, amen.

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Slow Stashing

given on Sunday, January 11, 2009

I suppose you noticed the basket up here with me.  I bet you are wondering what in the world “slow stashing” could possibly mean.  Well, I wondered, too, what slow stashing was?  The term “slow stash” appeared in my inbox.  I subscribe to an internet magazine Knitters Review.  This week’s posting began with this paragraph:
A core principle behind Slow Stashing is to rid your stash of unhappy yarns and only surround yourself with those yarns that make you happy.  For the rest of this year I will show you yarns that make me happy—worthwhile yarns from hard-working people in interesting places around the world, yarns that I hope might make you happy too.
What an intriguing opening!  I just had to take a few minutes and learn more.  And I found that “slow stashing” is an invaluable principle that could be applied to life in general.
Now I hate resolutions.  Here is it already almost two weeks into the new year and I find an article connected to resolutions.  But, I love knitting and this principle just makes knitting turn into a philosophy for life.  The question then becomes how does slow stashing relate to our faith?  The connection is the word happy.  Happy is connected to my faith in God.
Sometimes it is so easy to let life get in the way of hearing God.  This week is one in which it could have so easily interfered with hearing God.  We started a new semester at school, I had a COS paper due yesterday, and just family and home life details to include.  Life has a way of getting in between God and us, and it makes us unhappy.  I am good at stashing all the stuff of life in between God and me.
Now the Knitters Review appeared in my inbox on Thursday.  That night as I read my final Guidepost devotion from which another message was heard.  The opening verse was Isaiah 43:18-19:  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See I am doing a new thing!”  The brief devotion was inspiring.  The devotion began:  “When I’m tempted to think that life has given me too many challenges, I remember one of my patients at the senior-car home where I nursed for seventeen years….”
Helen Grace Lescheid has one of the hardest jobs on this earth, but she found God talking to her by the very testimony of a double amputee who was given prostheses at the age of 90.  The patient “instead of focusing on what she had lost, (she) made the most of what she still had.”  She even set a personal goal of crocheting one Christmas tree ornament each day in order to have 300 hundred to sell at a bazaar.  The final sentence, the lesson learned, reads, “Mrs. Reimer (the patient) showed me that when we view adversities as adventures, life becomes not only bearable but exciting.”
Both of these readings had different ways of sharing a very similar concept for a brand new year.  I go into a store where there is yarn, and all I want to do is walk around feeling the different textures and fibers.  I look at the prices and the sales and think of all the wonderful combinations of knitted projects I could make.  When I first began knitting, I could not get enough yarn and I quickly developed a stash.  I love the colors and the feel, and it just makes me want to sit and knit all day long.  Oddly enough, the more I try to knit something for myself, the more the stitches find a new home.  I do have three scarves and a vest that I have kept for myself, but that does not compare to all of the scarves, the prayer shawls, the blankets and baby blankets I have knitted in the past three years.
Knitting makes me happy, but knitting is also a ministry.  Each time I start a new project without a purpose, thinking it is so pretty I will love it, but sooner or later down the rows, a name becomes attached to the project and I know who will receive it.  In a way, knitting is praying for me.  Just like the little lady crocheting the snowflake ornaments, knitting is a method of focusing on my goals.
Slow stashing, a knitting principle, also becomes a guideline for a Christian life.  I have collected an awful lot of yarn, so to speak, through the years, but I need to weed out or let go of the stuff that makes me unhappy.  I need to focus on what makes me happy and to take some of that bad stuff and turn it into good stuff.  I can do that with yarn, but I need to do that with life events, too.
The new semester started and I have an awful lot of stuff that has been accumulating for the past 14 years working with the at risk students in a program that is anything but typical.  Much of the old experiences, difficult students, and frustrations can block my Christian thinking.  Right now I need to be doing some slow stashing of those thoughts so that I can keep moving forward with God.  If I can slow stash some of those negatives thoughts and feelings, I can hear God and follow God much more closely.
In the Knitters Review article, the process is outlined:
1. Pull everything out—including deep in the closets and attics where yarns tend to congregate.  Remove it from cover of darkness, take it all out into the bright open air, and study what you have.
2. As you look at each skein, each bag of yarn, each project, pay close attention to your feelings.  We’re going to create two piles:  the happy pile and the unhappy pile.
Each one of us can do the same things with all those deep inner thoughts, feelings, and memories we store away.  When we get each one of those dark, draining pieces of our lives out in the open, we can see how they make us feel.   Look at each one with Christian eyes.  Which ones make us happy and which ones make us unhappy?
The Knitters Review article continues to define the two piles:
“…the happy pile contains yarns that lift your spirits … inspire you …bring back good memories … from good people … feed your spirit.. keep those yarns.  In the unhappy pile go all the yarns that immediately cause your spirits to sag.  These yarns appeal to your sense of “should”… carry emotional baggage … are innocent bystanders to tough times in your life.  These yarns need to go.”
You can see how the slow stashing really applies to so much more than yarn and I apologize for using this metaphor or comparison so fully, but sometimes the words we hear in different ways speak so clearly to us.
The article goes on and explains how you have to let go.  The interesting thing is that the article provides such positive ways of getting rid of the excess yarn from the stash.  The solutions are filled with Christian thinking—give to schools, give to homeless or the needy, share it with others.  This may not be the way to get rid of all the unhappy thoughts and emotional baggage, but once we do let go of all that junk in our lives, we will be able to see new ways of taking life’s lemons, so to speak, and turn it into lemonade.
Several months ago I challenged each of you to look at the world through God’s eyes.  I think that is exactly what we should do as we dump out all the old and look forward.  At school we are doing this.  We start each semester like a brand new year.  Our students get full credits in one semester so the next semester we start all new classes.  Some students graduate at the end of the semester, so new students come in.  Sometimes it is difficult to get rid of all the negative feelings from one semester to the next, but when you do the school day goes much better.
The daily devotionals we read are tools that help us let go and turn our cares over to God.  The quick look at a verse or two or three in the Bible each day provides us with the guidance for our days.  On the January 3 Guidepost reading, the devotional was about making lists.  The contributor Debbie Macomber shared how her family had a tradition of making lists of the goals they which to complete in the New Year.  Her method has even developed into worksheets that cover financial, recreational, personal and spiritual goals.  She said that sometimes it was difficult to see the lists as goals because they were more like wishes.
Letting go and turning over our concerns to God is difficult and Debbie Macomber heard God helping her when she read a billboard:  “Some things need to be believed in order to be seen.”  For her, those words gave her a new direction, causing her to create a new list—“Needs to be believed.”  Her choice of scriptures was from Matthew7:7-8 and the words are so familiar:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Slow stashing needs to begin today.  Sometimes we do not always know how to manage, but we need to let God take over.  This is no easy task, but it is a step into a Christian lifestyle that will lead us to creating an enormous happy pile and a diminishing unhappy pile.  The more we practice slow stashing, the more we read the Bible, the more we talk to God in prayer, the happier our lives will be.  We will see the adversities as adventures; and once we tackle them and reach our goals or complete our lists, we will find peace within our souls.
Here is the challenge:  make a list or a set of goals, both personal and as a church.  We have God.  We have time.  We have work to do.  Let’s take an active approach to live a Christian life that is filled with happy yarns, happy thoughts, and exciting adventures.  We have the tools:  the Bible, family and friends, prayer, devotionals, studies, worship, and fellowship.
The article in Knitters Review ends with a hint:  stashing … slowly.  She uses the idea for gathering yarn, but consider this idea for including God in our life:
But there’s another possible path, the slow stashing path, in which you get to choose which yarns (choose God) to let into your life from this moment forward … but you are doing it in a mindful and conscious way.  You are seeking yarns (God) that inspire you, yarns made from noble fibers and by good people, yarns that are truly worthy of your time, your attention, and your dollars. … The point is that we’re still acquire yarn (God) …in a much more mindful and fitting manner.  And the more we stash from this place of mindfulness and love, the longer our love of knitting (God) will endure.  And that’s the whole point, right?
That is right.  The whole point is God.  The whole point is that God makes us happy.  The whole point is that as long as we are mindful of God and his love, we will learn about God, we will live life with God, and we will share God with all those around us—it feels so good.  I know I am now going to work hard to slow stash my life with God.  It makes me happy.  I know it will make you happy, too.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for speaking to me this week.  I know I have been busy and not paying very good attention to you, but I finally heard you.  As we leave today, may we hear you in the words of the Bible we read, in the words of our devotions, and even in the words of our worldly interests.  Guide us to live our lives as you would have us live them..  Guide us to look at this world through your eyes so that we may take life’s adversities and turn them into adventures.  Guide us to share with others how happy we are as Christians.

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