Newsletter - Chips Off The Rock

Sermon Series to Focus on “Glittering Vices”

I recently completed a series of sermons about the “5 Theological Worlds” that W. Paul Jones had identified. That series had to with what we believe as followers of Jesus Christ and indicated that different Christians have different theological understandings and perspectives. It’s important to understand what “theological world” people are coming from to help us understand their beliefs and commitments, even within a faith community like Rock Run Church of the Brethren.

On April 28, I will begin a new sermon series that will focus on our behaviors as followers of Jesus Christ.  The inspiration for this series is a book by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, a professor of philosophy at Calvin College, called, “Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and their Remedies.”

Are we familiar with the tradition of the “seven deadly sins”?  They are Envy, Vainglory (Pride), Sloth, Avarice (Greed), Anger, Gluttony, and Lust.  While passages like Colossians 3:5-8 list a number of behaviors that Paul says Christians should “get rid of,” there is no place in the New Testament that precisely lists these seven deadly sins. A list of vices like this, as far as historians can tell, was first put into writing by Evagrius of Pontus in the fourth century. Evagrius was one of what are known as the “desert fathers” – wise monastic types who withdrew into the desert to “face temptation and sin head-on and to cultivate a contemplative spirit through prayer.” (Konyndyk DeYoung, “Glittering Vices,” 2009, p. 27.) Other early Christian moral thinkers like Cassian, Pope Gregory I, and Aquinas developed Evagrius’ list further over time.

While Konyndyk DeYoung calls her book “Glittering Vices” to indicate how attractive these patterns of behavior can be, her “glittering vices” are based on the “seven deadly sins”.  Although she tends to use the terms interchangeably, she does make a distinction when she writes: “Sin has a broader scope, since it can include patterns of sinfulness in our behavior, our fallen condition or nature in general, or a single act of disobedience. The term vice is more specific: vices concern deeply rooted patterns in our character, patterns broader than a single act but narrower than our sinful human condition in general” (Ibid, p. 34). I will likely use the terms “sins” and “vices” at different times during the sermon series as if they are the same thing; it may be helpful to keep in mind that Konyndyk DeYoung does make this distinction between the two, although she also uses both terms in similar ways.

So why talk about vices? Konyndyk DeYoung indicates that “the list of vices maintains its appeal because we recognize the way the vices powerfully articulate distortions of deeply human desires” (Ibid, p. 39). She also says that “Identifying and struggling against vice” demonstrates “the graced and disciplined formation of the body of believers seeking to become more and more like Jesus Christ” (Ibid, p. 40).

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are still tempted to fall prey to the glittering vices that Konyndyk DeYoung writes about. With this sermon series we can, together as a faith community, reflect upon our moral struggles in a way that helps us to be more faithful disciples of Jesus. That is my hope for this series of sermons on the seven deadly sins that Konyndyk DeYoung writes about in her book on “glittering vices.”

Pastor John

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