“Practicing Spiritual Disciplines: EMBRACING SIMPLICITY”
The Rev. Tully M. Fletcher IV
Decatur Presbyterian Church
March 27, 2022
10 I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it.
11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.
12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Hour of cleaning before I write
In high school, in college, in seminary, whenever I would have a big paper due, even now to these days when I have a sermon to write, sometimes I get writer’s block. I find myself in a place where I just can’t type another word, not because I have no ideas on what to write, but because my desk is too messy, too much clutter.
That stack of papers that’s been on my desk for 5 weeks, they need to be filled ASAP; the gift card from Christmas to the store I never shop at, it has to be spent tonight, the collection of pens on my desk, all have to be neatly put in a drawer, organized by color. And after an hour of cleaning and doing tasks I’ve been procrastinating, I’ve finally cleared out enough clutter, that I can properly focus.
Any of you ever get this way?
Any of you have to clean your desk before you can do your work or homework?
Any of you have to clean the kitchen before you can start some other project?
Any of you have to clean a closet or straighten the garage before you can have that important conversation with your spouse?
There is real value in practice of de-cluttering.
The spiritual practice of simplicity, is about de-cluttering your soul.
Getting rid of all the junk that is preventing you from working on your relationship with God.
KISS (keep it simple stupid)
Our topic today, our spiritual discipline this week is to practice simplicity.
So today, let’s keep it simple.
As I’ve been pre paring for this sermon, I’ve been reminded of the old design principle, called the K.I.S.S. Principle, Keep It Simple Stupid.
Well, in that vein, the K.I.S.S. version of the gospel is “Love God, & Love one another.”
Our human tendency is to over complicate the things we’re involved in, and over simplify the things we’re not involved with.
My problems are intricate and layered, your problems are clear and simple.
My life has nuances to it, yours doesn’t.
My stuff is all important and valuable for a detailed list of reasons, your stuff, is just junk.
So let’s keep it simple.
We don’t need to complicate our spiritual lives, we don’t need to complicate our relationship with God, we don’t need to complicate our way of being church.
Keep it simple, “Love God, and love one another.”
If there is one thing you take from today’s sermon, Love God, Love one another.
Matthew passage has not aged well
That being said, it would be an oversimplification of the Matthew passage we read, if I didn’t talk about moths, rust, and thieves.
I have right here a small piece of cedar wood. I have several of these in my closet, one stuck in the front pocket of my favorite suite, one with my preaching robe. This little piece of wood smells pretty good, at least it does to me. But to moths, it smells terrible. The moths hate it so much that they won’t try to lay their eggs in my clothes nor eat my wool garments.
Furthermore, most of my clothes are made of cotton or a synthetic polyester blend, that is stretchy, cool, and not at all tasty to moths.
I have pots and pans made of stainless steel, which don’t rust no matter how poorly I treat them.
I have locks on my doors, and windows to keep thieves out.
I also have good insurance, so when the thieves do steal, it’s not really that big of deal, I get new stuff.
The advice in this passage has not aged well over the last 2000 years since Jesus spoke these words.
Or maybe it’s that we humans have totally missed the point.
That over the last 2000 years instead of following Jesus’ advice to simplify and de-clutter, we’ve spent our energy on technological improvements that makes our stuff last longer, or be insect resistant.
Jesus isn’t really talking about how to protect your ‘stuff.’ He is talking about values and priorities.
The more we try to use logic and new technology to justify our growing wealth of possessions, the more obvious it becomes that we have missed the point of entirely.
Our materialism is in control of us. Not Jesus our Lord.
Our stuff controls us, not the other way around.
A quick side note here… I just want to be clear…
This is not a sermon prophesying against the evils of Capitalism. This is a sermon about Greed and sin. Now those two things are closely related; capitalism and greed. And it’s easy to conflate the two. So, as we walk this journey towards simplicity, I invite you to open your ears and hearts to what God is saying to you this day.
As people of faith we are called to live differently. We live according to God’s word, not the ways of the world.
George carlin on Stuff
Comedians are modern day prophets
Comedians have the ability to see the world in a different way, and see where the pieces don’t quite fit together. And see the problems that everyone else has become blind to.
Biblical prophets did this too, they weren’t always so funny about it, and their relentless calling out of the truth often got them in trouble.
But I think many comedians have the ability to see truth, to see the things that we don’t want to see.
George Carlin did this. He often did it in a way that was rude and crass, but if you could see past his offensive words, he was often right.
He had this one bit, where he makes fun of all the stuff we’ve modern Americans have accumulated. He points out that our houses are just big boxes for all of our stuff.
Often in life we find we need a bigger house, because we have too much stuff
Or we get a storage unit for all of our extra stuff we don’t need right now, but we also don’t want to throw it away…
We love our stuff.
I am Move theory
We’ve been told this great lie in our society, the short version is “more stuff will make you happy”
See the Lie goes like this.
Imagine you are outside, in the rain, and naked, cold, and hungry.
You’re suffering, you are very unhappy.
I come along, I see you suffering, and I decide to help you out…
Well how am I going to help?
I’m going to give you some clothes, something warm to wear. I’m going to give you some shelter, bring you inside a house. And I’m going to give you some food, something hot to eat.
Maybe I’ll give you a soft bed, a blanket and nice pillow.
Well now all of the sudden you are feeling a little bit better,
you’re a little bit happy. All because I gave you a little bit of stuff.
Well hear comes the great lie….
If a little bit of stuff takes you from suffering & miserable, to Happy,
Well then a lot of stuff will make you a lot of happy.
That first part is true, when you have zero, a little bit of stuff can improve your situation and bring you a little bit of happiness.
The lie is the second part…
A lot of stuff will not bring you a lot of happiness.
Take some time this week to simplify
Get rid of some stuff
Simplify at the dinner table
Simplify at the coffee shop…
Simplify your wardrobe
Simplify your prayer life
Simplify your financial life
Love God, and Love one another.
It’s all the easy and it’s all the hard.