Acedia and the Spiritual Life

Posted on November 20, 2018

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sermon date 2018-11-18

Acedia and the Spiritual Life

The word, acedia and what that word means has taken on many different meanings for me throughout my life.  

The word can refer to apathy or depression or in having a lack of concern or care towards others or towards life.  

But on another level acedia can take on a deeper more spiritual darkness and pain in one’s life.

There is a dark and heavy feel to today’s Gospel reading from Mark.  

The beautiful temple, which was the central place of worship for the Jewish people, Jesus prophesied that it would be destroyed.  Every stone of the temple -thrown down.

Nothing of the temple will be left.  

In this Scripture reading Jesus also warned the people about war, and division between nations and kingdoms, and earthquakes and famines.  

And then it ends not with a bit of hope but with Jesus saying that this is just the beginning of the birth pangs.

For those early Christians there was much struggle, pain, and suffering.  There was war, division, earthquakes, and famine.

In the year 70 AD, about forty years after Jesus prophesied that the temple would be torn down, the Romans destroyed this great temple in Jerusalem.  What Jesus said came to pass.

The spiritual darkness came upon the people.

And so as I was reflecting on my sermon this past week this word acedia kept coming back to my attention.  

It is easy to feel some discouragement as we think about today’s Gospel reading or as we think about the negative and the destructive things going on in the world right now.  

War in the Middle East, wild fires in California, extreme poverty in Haiti, in our country conflict between political parties… the list goes on and on.  

Then there are the personal struggles that we all face.  The daily demons we encounter as we try to live our lives.  Anxiety, worry, doubt, fear, grief, pain… these very things are not easy to shake off.  

But in life it is often when we come to that darkest and deepest moment of despair when we encounter the faithfulness of God.  When Martin Luther was at one of his darkest moment of despair he wrote one of the greatest hymns that we have in the hymnal: “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”  

God himself fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit.  Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day.  The kingdom’s ours forever.    

In our Hebrews reading for today we hear:  “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is what… is faithful.”

What is one enduring promise that God makes to us again and again in Scripture.  That God is faithful, that God’s son Jesus is faithful to us.

To struggle against the powerful weight of acedia is no easy thing for any of us.  To struggle in our lives and in our spiritual lives is but the beginning of the birth pangs.  

But the one who is faithful to us remains faithful to us.  

In Psalm 16 we hear:  My heart therefore, is glad and my spirit rejoices, my body rests in hope for you will not abandon me to the grave.

And again from the book of Hebrews we hear that we are to encourage one another.  How are we to encourage one another? We encourage one another with this good news?  

God is faithful.

When I am tempted to fall by the demon of acedia I am reminded time and time again that God is faithful.  When I hear of famines, war, or earthquakes I am reminded through Scripture and through the proclamation of the Gospel, wherever it is preached, that God is faithful.  

When I am tempted to believe that there is little hope and that life continues on in an endless state of meaningless existence I am reminded -that God is faithful.  

In the end we believe in God’s ability to bring light out of darkness, hope out of despair, faith out of doubt, healing out of suffering, and resurrection out of death.  Yes, God is faithful.

There is the story of a man, who I will call Bob, who made a visit to see an elderly man who lived in an old apartment complex.  

When Bob entered the elderly man’s room he was surprised to see the poor condition of the room with paint peeling off the walls and holes in the floor boards.  

The elderly man was laying in his bed too sick to get out of bed.  When Bob approached the man he noticed that he immediately grabbed his Bible which was next to his bed.  

The man opened his Bible and started to read to Bob.  

Bob expected him to read a Psalm of comfort but instead the man read a Psalm of praise.  

When he finished reading the Psalm he shut his Bible, closed his eyes and lifted his hands us saying, “Alleluia!  Glory to God! Alleluia!”

Just when we think we are at our deepest despair God comes to us speaks to us and says, “I am faithful.”  

This is the promise proclaimed in Scripture.  

That demon of acedia has no power in the presence of God’s persistent, never-ending love.  

The spiritual life will always be marked with ups and downs the one constant sure thing is God’s relentless desire to be with us.  

A mighty fortress is our God, a sword and shield victorious; he breaks the cruel oppressor’s rod and wins salvation glorious.

“Alleluia!  Glory to God!  Alleluia!”   

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