I struggle with sin. Not so much the doing of it, though I do my fair share, but the naming of it. I struggle with how to talk about sin or think about sin. Like many of us, I grew up in a church that used guilt and shame to win conversions. And, after the conversion, the guilt and shame never stopped, leading to many tearful walks down many aisles hoping that this time would finally work. Sin was an affliction and Jesus was the cure, but I never felt cured. Instead, I just gave up, decided to find my own way. There had to be a better way, a new way. Perhaps in this Lenten season, that new way can be found in a very old way.
A fourth century mystic named Evagrius Ponticus included in his instruction manual for monks advice for fighting demons. Yes, demons: Gluttony, Lust, Avarice, Sadness, Anger, Acedia (bored restlessness), Vainglory, and Pride. Evagrius probably believed that these were literal demons that were literally attacking him, but he also clearly had a sense that it was an internal struggle in the soul. We all have voices in our heads telling us that we’re not good enough, that there is not enough in the world to have justice. And, worst of all, that God made it this way, meaning there’s probably no way out. So we grasp and we hoard and we fight, all to stave off the inevitable reality that there is an end to things. All of our hoarding, all of our control, only pushes that end a little farther away from us – and probably closer to someone else. Sin is ceding control to those voices, living into the fears and injustice that they construct.
Evagrius’ instructions were intended to prepare the monk for divinization, union with God. I cannot promise that we will get there. However, Lent is a time of preparation for life in Christ-Sophia, God’s dream for the world. Salvation for us; salvation for the world. In order to live more fully into that dream, we must deal with sin. Salvation is quieting the voices in our heads that tempt us to doubt the person that God made us, true faithlessness. Salvation comes to the world when we speak the Word of God and the Wisdom of God with the voice that God gave each of us.
I hope you’ll join us during our six-week Lenten series as we travel home to the self that God made and find the voice that proclaims justice to the world.
Grace and Peace,
February 26: Our Demons, Our God, Ourselves
What does Jacob wrestle with?
March 4: Demons of Desire: Gluttony, Lust, and Avarice
How do we draw the world in and push God out?
March 11: Demons of Repulsion: Sadness, Anger, and Acedia
How do we push the world away God with it?
March 18: Demons of Reason: Pride (and Shame)
How do we lie to ourselves?
March 25: Fear
What is the source of the demons’ power?
April 1: Palm Sunday
What happens when we find the voice that God gave us?