Seven Deadly Sins-- Gluttony "Obey Your Thirst!"

Proverbs 23:1-8, 19-21

When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
   observe carefully what
 is before you, 
and put a knife to your throat
   if you have a big appetite.
Do not desire the ruler’s
   for they are deceptive food.
Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
   be wise enough to desist.
When your eyes light upon it, it is gone;
   for suddenly it takes wings to itself,
   flying like an eagle towards heaven.
Do not eat the bread of the stingy;
   do not desire their delicacies;
for like a hair in the throat, so are they.
   ‘Eat and drink!’ they say to you;
   but they do not mean it.
You will vomit up the little you have eaten,
   and you will waste your pleasant words.
Hear, my child, and be wise,
   and direct your mind in the way.
Do not be among winebibbers,
   or among gluttonous eaters of meat;
for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
   and drowsiness will clothe them with rags.

So… in case you didn’t know, or you live in some football insulated bubble, today is the Super Bowl. Who’s for New England? (Boo.) Who’s for the Giants? (Yes!). Who’s for the Cowboys making the playoffs again sometime in our lifetimes? Here are some Super Bowl statistics for you—and I don’t mean Eli Manning’s passing yards or Tom Brady’s interception totals. Did you know that the Super Bowl is an $11 billion business? Americans will spend, on average, $64 per person! It is the 2nd biggest food consumption date on the calendar—after Thanksgiving. That’s right: folk eat more on Super Sunday than Christmas or Easter! Pizza Hut will deliver two million pizzas today, and Americans will consume 2 ½ billion chicken wings. 173 million Americans will watch the game—100 million will host or attend a watching party. Of those viewers, roughly half watch for the actual football, 37% watch for the commercials—which, by the way, go for $4 million for 30 seconds this year! Americans will wager $10B on the game—half of us bet on it—and five million will buy a new TV for the game.

Continuing in our series on the Seven Deadly Sins, obviously the sin for today is Gluttony! We are already a heavy society. 64% of Americans are overweight, and 30% are obese. By the year 2020, 1 in 5 medical issues will be related to obesity—50% more than today. Over the last couple of decades childhood obesity has doubled, and diabetes has become an epidemic. The United States has approximately 15% of the world’s population—but get this: we consume 80% of its resources. A cartoon recently featured a sign outside of a restaurant: “Specializing in meals that leave you bloated and lethargic, followed by self-loathing.” The husband says to his wife: “I liked it better when they called it ‘comfort food’.”

Gluttony is the sin of over consumption. When we eat more than we should, when we go back for seconds and thirds, when our carbon footprint is unnecessarily large, we are not enjoying the blessings of God’s bounty. We are engorging ourselves, to the detriment of our bodies and others. “Isn’t food a blessing?” “Shouldn’t we enjoy what God has given to us?” Yes! But a raging appetite is never good for anything, as we have seen throughout the series. When are appetites exist in a restricted environment, then go for it! Enjoy! But so often we stretch those boundaries. We end up consuming more than our fair share, and resources that could have been used for the benefit of those in need are spent on those who already have enough.

This is an issue I struggle with myself—I have made too many return trips to the buffet line or the dessert cart. And I have made too many excuses for skipping a walk or riding my bike—two things I enjoy doing and make me feel much better. Exercise has been proven to help with the blues, but so often I am too busy or lazy or too stuck in every day routines to think about it. Still, I am fortunate that I can hide behind my clergy robe on Sundays. Recently after a service someone shared a few words of thanks, stepped away, then came back. She said, “By the way, black is very slimming on you.” What??? So yeah, when I am talking about gluttony, I don’t do it by pointing at you and not thinking of my own self. I have consumed more than my fair share wayyy too much in my life. And the food industry is more than happy to order more and more stuff for me—and you—to eat. I heard a dietician say on the radio that other day that it takes 20 minutes for our stomachs to communicate to the brain that we are full, so we should eat slower and take smaller bites. She even encouraged listeners to put down their fork between bites while chewing.

But gluttony is not only a physical issue. It’s more than a medical diagnosis or portion control. Gluttony, like all sin, is a spiritual issue. Gluttony is sinful because it is an attachment to worldly things. The Apostle Paul reminded us that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), meaning that not only does God’s Spirit reside in us, but that our bodies belong to God. As he put it, “You are not your own.” So it matters—what we eat, what behaviors we exhibit—it matters. Our actions and habits reflect upon ourselves and God. So we should stop our rampaging gluttony. We should embrace simplicity. We should enjoy only as much as we need. Obsessing on our next meal—living with three boys it’s constant—as I serve them breakfast they’re asking what’s for dinner—leaves no room for contemplation about God. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for forty days, and his first temptation had to do with food: “Turn these stones into bread.” But he refused: “One does not live on bread alone, but from every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus’ time in the wilderness was spent in devotion—40 days of fasting and prayer.

Fasting is a form of devotion not espoused by the restaurant association! The voluntary missing of eating, whether a single meal or a day or several days, is a religious practice observed by nearly every faith. Fasting was commonplace in biblical times as a way of acknowledging one’s dependence on God’s provision. In times of mourning or national calamity, leaders would call for a fast. Knowing that one would not be distracted by the next meal meant one could focus on spiritual matters. In our society of instant gratification, the fast has lost its appeal. We don’t even think about it as a spiritual practice. In fact, our gluttony is so profound that we don’t even speak of it as a sin. It’s now a commonplace, accepted reality. One that is destroying us every day. Even our doctors are reluctant to discuss it. This week’s Time magazine mentioned that only about 30% of healthcare providers mention their patients’ weight, and the percentage is even lower for physicians that are overweight themselves, particularly if they are heavier than their patients—18%.

Paul mentioned the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Self control. Mark Twain said, “It’s east to quit smoking. I’ve done it several times.” The issue is self-control. Do we really want to stop self-destructive behaviors? Do we really want to turn away from our appetites and embrace a stronger spiritual life with the necessary limits?
No one is saying food is inherently bad. Jesus himself performed marvelous miracles around food and drink. His first sign, according to John, was at a wedding in Cana, where he changed water into wine. They didn’t really need more wine—we’re told everyone was already drunk—but when the steward tasted the recently changed wine he noticed it was better than anything offered previously. God’s abundant grace is there for each of us to enjoy—it is limitless and is offered freely. All four of the gospels remembered a story of Jesus feeding a large crowd with a few loaves and fish. In fact, Matthew and Mark record the event twice—so six times in four gospels! The disciples are tired after a long day and ask Jesus to send the crowds because they are hungry. “You give them something to eat,” Jesus says. But they can’t, so Jesus tells them to find what they can and bring it to him. After seating the crowds in groups, Jesus takes the bread, holds it up to heaven, blesses it, and breaks it for all to share. Everyone eats and there are twelve baskets left over.

The feeding of the crowds is a parable that speaks to the meal we will share together in a moment. Around the Lord’s table, we are all invited to share in what our liturgy describes as a feast. Our boys always love communion Sundays, because they want to consume as much leftover bread and juice as possible. Which is fine—as long as everyone is served first! John Wesley understood communion as a means of grace, and encouraged Christians to partake as often as possible. He often received communion several times a week. You may say he was a glutton for it—but the more we feast on Christ here the more we are filled with love and grace. When you come to the Lord’s table, come with thankful hearts. Come to the feast hosted by your risen Lord. Taste and see that the Lord is good!

On this Super Bowl Sunday, if you find yourself surrounded by mounds of pizza, buffalo wings, or whatever else, remember the source of all good things is God. Whatever we eat, let us each with gratitude for what we have received, and let us not overindulge ourselves, but leave food for others to enjoy. I read about a church in Vermont that is observing Super Sunday in a unique way. West Dover Congregational Church is comprised roughly of half Patriots fans and half Giants fans. They decided to have their own competition, inviting congregants and those in the community to bring donations to the Deerfield Valley Community Food Pantry. Donations will be counted and the winning team announced at halftime. Then every will enjoy—hopefully not in a gluttonous way—a potluck lunch!

Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. Everyone who eats of the bread I give will never be hungry.” So see, taste, and enjoy the goodness of God! Years ago, the marketing campaign for Sprite was, “Obey Your Thirst.” An invitation to gluttony! As we leave this place, may we obey our thirst for hope. May we obey our thirst for truth. May we obey our thirst for peace. May we obey our thirst for God!