STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH FEBRUARY 28, 2021
Rev. Sabrina Ingram Lent 2
WORSHIPPING TOGETHER AT HOME
Call to Worship:
We are not the first to make the journey to Jerusalem.
Many have gone before us and many will come after us.
From near and far, God’s people gathered to celebrate God’s goodness on the holy mountain.
We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are travelers on the road.
Jesus often went to Jerusalem as a child to celebrate Passover.
Now he has set his face toward Jerusalem again, knowing this time will be different.
We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are travelers on the road.
Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem is sombre.
He has no illusions about what is to come.
Still, he goes ahead, doing God’s will.
We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are travelers on the road.
Let us pray.
God of light,
we want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps,
but we have our fears and doubts.
We would rather avoid the pain and darkness on our journey.
Give us courage and perseverance when the journey is difficult,
and the grace to help others on the road.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (extinguish the second candle)
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
God of Grace,
You see the sparrow fall and know the numbers of hairs on our heads.
You delivered the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt and led them through the wilderness.
You loved the world so much that when we were enslaved to sin, you sent your only begotten Son to die for us, so that we could have eternal life. We might die for someone we loved deeply, but even that is iffy, yet while we were still lost in sin, Christ died for us. The righteous one for the unrighteous.
When we remember this, we are in awe. What are we that you should care for us? Mere mortals who are rarely bother even thinking of you. Yet you have lifted us up, even above the status of angels, to share in the glory of your Son. You have made us co-heirs with Christ.
We confess to you, with shame, that there are times when we are barely moved by your generous love. We do not love as you have loved us. We look at your world on a path of destruction and we are not moved to work for your kingdom. We see the injustice of the world and are too tired to fight for what is right. We see the plight of people who suffer and turn away to enjoy our lives. Forgive us our apathy. Awaken us by your Spirit to enjoy life, to love others and to serve you.
We acknowledge that we worship today with those beyond our walls. We are grateful for our congregation and hold each one up to you. Make us one and keep us one. May our worship be alive, engaged, and filled with enthusiasm, so that you may be glorified now and forever. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon Psalm 57: 7 – 11
Awake, my soul!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn.
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens;
your faithfulness extends to the clouds.
Prayer for Illumination
Holy God, whose vitality fills every part of creation, as we hear your word revive our spirits with love for you and passion for your kingdom. Amen.
Revelation 3: 16
Romans 12: 9 – 21
Mark 14: 38 – 41
Message: Unchallenged Sin: Apathy
Last week we started our Lenten sermon series by looking at the unchallenged sin of fear. This week we’re looking at apathy. The other day, I asked a friend “what’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?” She said, “I don’t know, and I don’t care”.
Apathy can be defined in many ways. According to Wikipedia, “Apathy is a lack of feeling, emotion, interest, or concern about something. It is a state of indifference, or the suppression of emotions such as concern, excitement, motivation, or passion. An apathetic individual has an absence of interest in or concern about emotional, social, spiritual, philosophical, virtual, or physical life and the world.” Apathy can be a symptom of other illnesses including Alzheimer’s and mental health disorders, so if apathy is unusual for you and seems to be increasing against your will, pray for God’s intervention and strength, and seek a medical diagnosis. Again, something illness based is generally not a choice but a symptom of our fallen human experience. Apathy is also different from needing a break to recharge your batteries so you can do the things that motivate and excite you. At those times, you still care, you’re just in need of some self-care, so you can go on caring. When we’re apathetic, we really can’t be bothered, we lack enthusiasm, and we don’t care.
Throughout life we have moments of apathy when we roll our eyes and say “whatever”, or we look at something on our “to do list” and play a computer game instead, or we’re listening to someone speak (not your minister, of course) and think “ask me if I care”. Apathy that is temporary or fleeting is not uncommon, however, it still needs to be resisted. Apathy of this nature is comparable to lust. A passing moment of lust is different from a full-blown adulterous affair. But lust is still a sin (remember the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:28: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”). Lust may not be as blatantly destructive as adultery, but it’s a form of covetousness; it distracts and even obsesses the person lusting; it can lead to harmful actions; and it objectifies and degrades the person who is the focus of one’s lust. A brief moment of apathy (of not feeling or caring) for a period of time, isn’t the same as giving up on life or developing a hard heart or callous attitude. Nonetheless, it lacks compassion and it’s not the abundant life Jesus wants for us. A brief period of apathy still leads us away from Christ, if only for a time and whatever leads us away from Christ is sin.
An apathetic person has adopted a world view which negates the gift of life. Full-blown apathy is a decision to disengage from everything and everyone around us. Consistent, long-term apathy is a choice. You may recall watching the TV show Seinfeld; someone would pour their heart out, looking for a sympathetic ear and Jerry would respond, “Ya, that’s a shame” and move on to a topic he was interested in. If we choose to be apathetic often enough, it becomes a habit, and then a lifestyle and then a world view. Apathy is a sin because it’s an affront to God. In a universe so full of wonders and opportunities, how can people supress excitement or interest? How do we manage to be bored or indifferent? Apathy is a sin because it’s the opposite of gratitude. It tells God that his gift to us – the gift of life – is pathetic and worthless. Apathy is a sin because it’s a refusal to do God’s will. Not only is life pathetic, but I refuse to participate. Apathy keeps us from working with God to make life “on Earth as it is in heaven”. Apathy is a sin because it leaves us passive in the face of evil.
Apathy is a sin of omission. It’s a state of spiritual debt. Typically, when Christians say the Lord’s Prayer, they say, “forgive us our trespasses”. Spiritually, a trespass is an action which violates God’s will and actively wounds another person. It is something we do. An act we commit. Presbyterians say, “forgive us our debts”. A debt is passive. A debt is something we have not done that would have fulfilled the will of God and blessed another person. It is something we omit; something we could or should do that we decide to leave undone. Spiritually speaking, doing nothing leaves us owing something to God and others. An apathetic attitude is a source of spiritual debt. It causes us to do nothing except disdain life. Apathy was the attitude of the church in Laodicea, who were told, “You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit” (Revelation 3: 15 & 16). The Laodiceans weren’t on fire for the Lord and they weren’t against him; they simply didn’t care. They weren’t running after Christ and they weren’t walking away; they were sitting on the sidelines doing nothing. They weren’t alert or asleep; they were staring into space because nothing mattered. Their apathy made Christ sick.
Apathy manifests in many destructive ways. First, it hurts the apathetic. When we have chosen apathy, we stop making plans and goals. We stop using our gift, which leads to a lack of fulfillment. When we have chosen apathy, we stop caring for ourselves and every aspect of us – spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical begins to atrophy. It doesn’t matter if the gym stays open 24/7 – 365 days of the year if you can’t be bothered to get off the couch. It doesn’t matter if you pay tuition if you don’t go to class. It doesn’t matter if you’re going out in public, you’re wearing your pajamas anyway. When we choose apathy, we leave ourselves isolated because we omit doing what’s needed to build relationships.
Apathy hurts others. It’s frustrating to live with someone who has given up, to watch someone who can’t be bothered to help themselves, who refuses to make good choices, and who sets themselves up to be a victim. The apathetic person can drive those who love them to the brink of insanity. Apathetic people are often abusive; they may roll their eyes and saying, “whatever”, or ignore the other or tell them, “I don’t care”. They may make promises they don’t keep, or consistently show up late, if at all. Because the apathetic person does little to reciprocate the love others offer, relationships either disintegrate (the unity between the two parties dissolves) or become one-sided. People can only survive so long in one-sided relationships before they put their energy into other things and people. Either way, the other party experiences the devastating grief of losing someone who is still alive.
Apathy hurts our society and our world as a whole. Apathetic people are blasé about democracy and the privilege of voting. Abraham Lincoln said, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters”. Plato was less colourful, “The price of apathy is to be ruled by evil men”. Apathetic people do not work for justice, feed the poor, heal the Earth or fight for basic human rights. The theologian, John Stott defined apathy as “…the acceptance of the unacceptable.” Apathy causes us to ignore our moral compass. Even in the face of “man’s inhumanity to men”, we just shrug it off. Apathy is the root of inaction. What do you do when you witness a wrong? In the 1700’s the Irish politician, Edmond Burke noted, ““The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 300 years later, many good people still do nothing. Evil is still running rampant. Apathy often sets in because we’re not sure what we could do that would make a difference. Who am I to address a systemic evil? It is always better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Do the small things you can do. We can speak up. A woman I know, in her 80’s, is an advocate for those who are abused; she’ll write letters and articles to various publications and she doesn’t mince words. We can intervene when we see cruelty, whether that’s by speaking up in the moment, or video taping an incident and putting it on the net. We can discuss and name the subtle attitudes that lead to injustice. We can let our position be known. We can listen and learn. We can write a cheque, no matter how small. If a million people give a dollar each that’s a million dollars.
Most of all, apathy hurts God. The worst apathy recorded in the Bible takes place on the night of Jesus arrest. Jesus has just told his disciples the fate that awaits him. He has comforted them and prayed for them. He is about to face one of the most brutal forms of capital punishment ever used. His physical suffering will be beyond description. Emotionally, he is grieving. Jesus is 33 years old. A young man who should have many years in front of him. He is leaving his friends. He is leaving his mother and knows his death will break her heart. He is leaving the beauty and wonder of this created world. He has to let go of the ministry he’s built up and hopes it will survive. Spiritually, he is about to take on the powers of sin and death, the fight against evil principalities and powers, the final show down with Satan. He goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. And his closest friends get tired and bored and fall asleep, too apathetic to stay awake and watch with him, too apathetic to pray for him or even for themselves. And suddenly, it’s too late. The tide turns. Jesus is arrested and there is no do-over.
We are called in differing ways to “stay awake”, “to pray” and to serve Christ. This is our one and only (earthly) life and there isn’t a do-over. Will your life be squandered in an attitude of apathy? Will you miss Christ’s calling and the opportunities he’s giving you to live fully, freely and abundantly? Will you leave Jesus alone and abandoned? Is your plan to stand before God on the judgement day, roll your eyes and say, “Whatever”? Trust me, on that day, you will care. And perhaps more than that, God will care.
In the end, life is a beautiful gift, a chance to experience an amazing planet and an opportunity to stretch your wings and to fulfill all the potential that lies within us. It is a journey of discovery that finds it’s fulfillment in following Christ and doing God’s will with our whole being. It is a pathway to joy. So, lets put away all trace of apathy and “ Love from the center of who you are… Run for dear life from evil; hold on tight to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant…” (Romans 12: 9 – 12)
Silent Prayer and Reflection
God, who never slumbers or sleeps, you provide for all our needs. We offer you our gifts and abilities, our minds, and our hearts, use us to glorify you and be a blessing to our neighbour. Amen.
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Loving God, we thank you for the vision you have for our lives,
the promises you have made to us,
and the journey you open before us.
Today we remember with gratitude:
(pause after each phrase for silent prayer and reflection)
The beauty of your creation and the joy of being alive.
The talents and abilities you have given us.
The work you call us to do.
The people you have given us to love.
The people who love us and give us encouragement.
The ways you keep us secure in uncertain times by your promise of eternal life.
Moments in these months of pandemic that have made us laugh or smile.
Times when we have felt your gifts of courage and patience.
Times when you have helped us overcome temptation.
Gracious God, we are grateful for all these signs of your love in our lives.
Thank you for the hope they bring us. Show us how to share this hope and love with others who are struggling in these difficult days. Help us to care. Give us the will to be involved. Help us to live as co-workers with Christ in building your kingdom.
Faithful God, we pray for healing and restoration in the world that is our home.
Hear us as we name in silence the needs and concerns, we carry today:
We pray for people, places, and situations deeply in need of your grace.
We pray for people whose hearts are hard and who have adopted and attitude of apathy.
We pray for those who face the fears and frustrations of coping with COVID-19; for those who are ill and those who grieve.
We pray for those who are treated as “less” due to the biases of others.
We pray for those who struggle to feed, clothe, or house themselves and their families, and all those who worry about their economic future.
We pray for the weak and vulnerable, those who are physically or mentally challenged, those who are oppressed, and children everywhere.
We pray for those who treat others with a lack of dignity and respect.
We pray for the earth and its well-being, that areas and species under threat will be cared for.
We pray for peace with justice in regions of the world facing turmoil.
And we pray for all those offering leadership and service in these times of hope and anxiety, for those planning the delivery of vaccines, for those helping to distribute them, for those receiving them and for those uncertain about vaccination.
We pray for those we know and love who are ill, physically, or mentally…
We pray for those who do not know Christ, or who have turned away from him and need your saving grace…
By the power of your Spirit, O God, work in us and through us. May we bring the light and love of your kingdom into our relationships and our community in all we do and say. May we live with passion and compassion. May we glorify you and enjoy you forever.
Receive our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord who taught us to pray in these words:
The Lord’s Prayer
Invitation to Mission:
Wake from your sleep.
Climb out of your coffins.
Let the light of Christ shine on you.
We go into the world to shine with the light of Christ,
to spread hope,
and to live as passionate followers of Jesus Christ.
Benediction: May the Triune God bless and keep you. Amen.
The work of PWS&D
In many indigenous communities in Guatemala, women face domestic violence, poverty, and discrimination. Consequently, it’s difficult for women to feel safe to voice their concerns, both in their households and local civil society. PWS&D, through workshops led by local indigenous partners, empowers women to improve self-esteem, learn about their rights and encourage political participation. Women learn the importance of health, nutrition, and hygiene, in turn improving their home and family lives. For Marta Crisóstomo, a 30-year-old mother of a young son, these workshops meant she was able to change the health of her entire family. “I learned how important it is to clean my kitchen, wash my dishes and practice good handwashing to avoid illness,” she shared. Marta used the skills she learned to empower herself and her family. This Lenten season faithfully respond to Christ’s call to serve and equip vulnerable communities by empowering women with the skills and knowledge to advocate for themselves and their families.