Sloth and its Antidote

Yesterday, UST Law School welcomed Michael Schutt, director of the Christian Legal Society’s Law School Ministries. I have known and admired Mike for a number of years and so was delighted when he told me he would be in town and would have time for come for a lunchtime conversation with our students. His theme was Law, Calling and the Drudgery of Law School.

During his talk, Mike identified four challenges or difficulties we face as Christians in the legal profession (and in training for that profession) and their antidotes. The one with the most (at least initially) counter-intuitive antidote was sloth.

We tend to think of sloth as akin to laziness – sitting on the couch flipping the remote rather than doing our work. But the more dangerous sloth, Michael suggested is a spiritual sloth, which he described as recognizing the good and virtuous and ignoring it because we are so wrapped up in our work that that which we recognize as the good gets put aside. What Mike was describing was captured well in a comment made to me recently by someone I admire a great deal: he observed that he found himself of late attending to the immediate more often than the important. We can get so caught up in our business that we lose sight of where our attention ought to be placed.

Hence, said Mike, as strange as it may sound, the antidote to sloth is Sabbath – taking time in contemplation, stopping our activity. Describing something like the Ignatian examen, he suggested the students take at least ten minutes each evening where they completely “unplug” and sit and do nothing. He suggested the contemplate the events of the day, looking at where was the good, the virtuous, and where the good was lost sight of. As someone who frequently recommends to people that they engage in a daily examen, I was happy to have the students hear this advice from him as well.

Thanks for being with us today, Mike.


Too Much or Too Little?

Yesterday morning I attended a Worship Service at Wayzata Community Church, because the Chamber Choir my daughter sings in was singing at the service. They sing there several times a year and I always find the services to be meaningful experiences.

One of the things that drew me yesterday was the Prayer of Confession. The prayer were adapted from one written by Ted Loder, a retired Methodist minister who I had not before known of, but who has published several books of prayers.

The Leader began by praying:

Sometimes, Lord, it just seems to be too much;
too much violence, too much fear;
too much of demands and problems,
too much of broken dreams and broken lives.
Or maybe it is too little;
too little of compassion,
too little of courage, or daring, of persistence, or sacrifice;
too little of music and silence.

After some time of silence, we all prayed together:

O God, Your love is a wonder!
In Jesus, You forgive us all of our “too much,”
And you forgive us every “too little.” Amazing grace!
Now make of our lives some nourishment for these starved times,
Some food for our brothers and sisters who are hungry for gladness and hope,
And as You make us bread for them,
O God, do also fill our spirits.

The prayer was a perfect accompaniment to the (as always) wonderful sermon preached by the Senior Minister, John Ross, on the subject of sloth, defined by Ross as the failure to do right things by apathy or avoidance.

It is a good reminder: It is not just about what we do, but about what we don’t do.