Breaking Inertia

Breaking Inertia

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

All Readings

Service Booklet

Gospel: Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

10  Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’ 12 Then the disciples approached and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?’ 13 He answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.’ 15 But Peter said to him, ‘Explain this parable to us.’ 16 Then he said, ‘Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.’


This past Sunday the lectionary passages made a strong point about checking the inertia of our lives. This directly addresses the “routines” of our lives; our behaviors and thoughts. We know that we have inertia in our lives by simply stepping back and asking questions about what we do, say and think.

A good example of this are the prejudicial tendencies and biases that characterize “Southerners.” I have relatives that fit this profile. They have been raised in a culture that is still healing from the impact of slavery and the particular views held about blacks from Africa, but the current manifestation of it is bigoted.

If you swim in the pool, you’re going to get wet. 
They are wet.

Now, they can choose to not only distance themselves from this way of thinking, but they can actually “make a stand” against bigotry in the places they live. This would be difficult, I know, but it is not impossible.

Now, they can choose to not only distance themselves from this way of thinking, but they can actually “make a stand” against bigotry in the places they live. This would be difficult, I know, but it is not impossible.

Another example, from our own town, are the prejudices that have been common between those from Grass Valley and those from Nevada City. Up until recently, if you were from Nevada City, you did not associate (really) with those from Grass Valley. The ladies auxiliary groups did not fellowship together and neither did the fraternal organizations. Most of this stems from the fact that Nevada City was the mine owners town and Grass Valley, the workers town (and I know that I am generalizing this…). There is still an impact from this (just compare housing prices in the 95959 zip code to 95945). 
It’s inertia.

Inertia is hard to shake.

I have, over the course of my faith journey, made many adjustments to thoughts and actions. This is mainly due to the need to differentiate myself from the larger evangelical movement. Most of you know that my “spiritual heritage’ is distinctly evangelical, with all the sensibilities that come with that (good and bad). One of the things I was confronted with in my time within the evangelical church was the need to be “perfect.” Now, it is not a rule, but when the you-know-what hits the fan in your life, people, especially those in leadership positions, look you up and down to try and figure out where you have sinned. I resigned in 2007 as the youth pastor at an evangelical church in town, not because I had acted inappropriately or done anything wrong, but simply to allow my family to heal from some things that had happened in my first marriage. I resigned because I felt like I had been “kicked out of the box” (I had not managed my family well, specifically my wife) and no longer met the morality code requirements to be a pastor. This is when I realized that some of the institutional inertia within the evangelical church was not what Jesus is calling us to.

My love for Holy Trinity started the day I saw the sign at the bottom of Nevada Street that simply says, “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.”

I needed that.
And I felt it as I was welcomed into the parish.

I, as a normal part of what I do, am constantly evaluating what I believe and what I do.
I evaluate my heart.

In the Gospel reading from last Sunday Jesus makes it clear that it is the thoughts of our heart that do us in. It is the inertia of our lives, how we were raised, our woundedness from life, the people we spend time with, that shape our hearts:

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand
Jeremiah 17:9

If this is true, then I must check the inertia in my life.
I must check my heart.

One of the main ways we can do this is by evaluating our Filter Bubble. If you heard me preach Sunday, then this may make some sense to you.I will explain it, regardless.

A good example of a Filter Bubble is how social media sites work (or, pretty much any app on your phone). Facebook collects your likes and dislikes (as you interact with the app) and creates a metric for you that is specific to you. What they then do with this is make your feed more like the things you like (it can become quite the echo chamber as far as thoughts are concerned). They also target advertising to you that fits you. The more you interact with the app, the more it “knows you” and the more it adjusts what you see. I have well over 500 Facebook “friends,” but I only see posts from 20-30. The rest are not pertinent to my metric. So what’s wrong with this, you say?

If all we ever encounter are the beliefs that do not challenge us, that is to say the things we already believe, inertia will take us down that path (it’s one of the reasons that social media is so devastating to political discourse, because it only raises the intensity of the differences). In order to counter it, we must make a conscious choice.

I routinely get news information from CNN, Fox, the Huffington Post, Reuters and the BBC.
Because each one of these news outlets is biased. And different.
If I take a look at all of them, I am more likely to get to the “truth.”

I have read books by Max Lucado, A.W. Tozer, J.I. Packard and Charles Swindoll 
(all evangelical authors).

I have also read books by Christopher Hitchens, Diana Butler Bass, and Nadia Bolz Weber.
(not evangelical, one an atheist).

Again, to broaden my exposure to other ideas to make sure that the inertia of my theological training and discipleship are not creating a Filter Bubble. It’s okay to have convictions. It’s also okay to check them.

Evaluating our Filter Bubbles means that we must be willing to listen. We must value the views of others. It doesn’t mean we need to adopt them, but it allows us to be more engaged with someone that we might disagree, even allowing us to find out what things we have in common.

I read Christopher Hitchens book Mortality. Mr. Hitchens was a devout Atheist during his life. He wrote the book after he was diagnosed with throat cancer and while he was receiving treatment. I read that book not because I agree with his worldview, but because many of my patients (I was working as a hospice chaplain at the time) had similar beliefs to him and I wanted to understand so that I might better care for them.

When we engage with those outside of our normal circles, we can learn something about them and then we are better able to care for them. 

When we did our supper groups a year plus ago, I did that so that it would help me to better understand who I am called to shepherd. It allows me to know, better, people’s sensibilities about life and where they have come from to be able to then provide good care.    

Are we willing to examine our lives?
Let this prayer from David be upon our hearts:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;    
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,    
and lead me in the way everlasting."
Psalm 139:23-24