Saturday, February 12, 2011

Trivial pursuits

Reading The Christian Century this week and was otherwise intrigued and in accordance with Expect a Whirlwind, a commentary on worship. But there was this:
We Americans are involved in two bloody wars, have a rapacious petroleum habit and are near Depression levels of unemployment, but prayers of confession often bemoan banal, relatively low-cost, middle-class transgressions such as "busyness" or "letting our minds wander from You." Reportedly, Martin Luther's confessor became so frustrated when Luther was confessing "puppy sins" that he shouted at Luther, "Go kill your father or something. Then we'll have a sin to talk about!"
What is wrong with corporate prayer addressing sins large and small? Clearly, some sins are more serious than others, either in scope or depth. Deaths of thousands in the Middle East wars is a horrible, horrible waste of humanity. Petroleum dependence seems likely to destroy the planet. Yet, is it not also a small waste of humanity to spend a life in perpetual busyness, time spent with little meaningful purpose that benefits others or self?

I am not familiar with exactly what "puppy sin" Luther was confessing. But waste seems more than a puppy sin to me. Wasting your time in busyness that profits no one rather than spending it in contemplation or play or volunteering seems like something worth praying over and for, even if no one is dying from it.

And diverted attention from God seems a crying shame. It means I'm more engaged in me, me, ME and what I want than in the people and world around me and our needs. Paying attention to what is worth our attention, getting busy doing what really needs to be done--is there anything more important than that?
Isn't it this very kind of attention that can lead many of us to actually doing something about those big, more important evils?

I wonder if God might not be just as offended by the "banal" sins of everyday life than by our collective large sins. Whether we spend our 24/7 eking out a day to day subsistence, lolling in the lap of luxury, or some place muddling in the middle, what we do--or don't do--matters. And briefly focusing on that in corporate prayer seems a worthy use of time rather than a trivial pursuit.



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