Humility

A Psalm for Piles of Leaves

I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you." (Psalm 16:1)

Each change of the seasons brings tasks that can ground our humility. We root ourselves in simple thankfulness. It wearisome to rake and rake, and to hear the wind wail at night, knowing it is replenishing the yard with leaves from the neighbor's trees. But, my soul is grateful to be living in this time and place. I say to the creator God, who designed my neighbor's maple trees to be so prodigious, "you are my God." 

Sunday, November 18, 2018
Pentecost 26

To Do Lists

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

We all think it is important to do important things. Most of us can remember some big thing in our lives that took all of our attention and made us anxious for night after night. I have the first half of Psalm 127 memorized (Unless the Lord builds the house...). It dogs me in those periods of my life when I have such great plans that I bulldozer things to the edge of hubris.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Pentecost 25

When Ambition becomes Sinful

[James and John] said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory."

We expect Jesus’ business to be organized the same as our businesses here on earth. Our organizations are structured to be pyramids, you have one person at the top (call them king, or president, or Jesus), then you have the two below them (call them princes, Ivanka and Jared, or James and John). The pyramid then spreads out and so how high an ambitious person goes depends upon how willing they are to shove the rest of us down a few levels. So, when the other disciples complain about James and John, we know just how they feel.

Sunday, October 21, 2018
Pentecost 22

A Psalm for the Fall

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

Psalm 90 is both good and bad news. The good news is that God is in this human redemption business for the long haul. All of human existence is but a moment to him. Like Martin Luther King, God knows where the arc of moral history is going. It is not a long arc to him. God knows that it bends toward justice. But it will take forever in human terms. And yes, the bad news is that God knows that your life, and mine, on this planet will be over in a blink. We won't live to see what we hope for become a reality.

Sunday, October 14, 2018
Pentecost 21
Fall Season

David and Bathsheba

In the spring, when Kings go off to war…

It is very hard to be a godly politician. One has to respect all people and have a heart for justice. David had this mindset as a youth, but the further he shifted away from the shepherd’s worldview, the more he became corrupted by political expediency. 2nd Samuel 11, is the story of a fallen man. Even if he had never had sex with Bathsheba, he would still be a despicable anti-hero. His sin was to sit in his palace and do what everyone else in his position was doing. For a thousand years after this, whenever a king allowed their personal moral weakness to jeopardize the nation, people would say, "Well what about David?" This has a way of justifying sin. The same "what-about-ism" may soon be the ruin of American Democracy.

Sunday, July 29, 2018
Pentecost 12

Lifestyle Matters

In the past week we have witnessed the fall of filmmaker Harvey Weinstein, the humiliation of actor Kevin Spacey, and the arrests of men who may have conspired for treasonous ends. I am not going to speculate if these treasons were against our government or the Ukrainian people, if Spacey’s confession was honest or self-serving, or if Weinstein’s victims deserve a pound of his ample flesh. What I think needs to be said is what Jesus said, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).

Note Jesus’ use of the word “all.” Some pride, is not forgiven. Some misuse of power, is not justified. Some abuse of one’s authority to satisfy one’s own needs, will not long go unnoticed. Why? Because the ends never justify the means. Every great man who gets caught with their pants down reasoned themselves into their compromised lifestyle by thinking that the great project they are undertaking (be it a creative thing like a film, a political thing like a tea party, or simply the accumulation of ungodly riches), justifies them becoming a bad person. The people in the news this week are bad people. Let us be honest.

For the Christian, the means is always love. The end is that our lives be worthy of God's grace. Paul says, “As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (I Thessalonians 2:11-12). My parents always encouraged me to be a good person. It is job one. You may strive for great things in this world, but job one is being good.

Sunday, November 5, 2017
Pentecost 26
All Saints Day

Life Lessons

Bible stories often contrast people who are spiritually attuned with those who are as lost as a goose.  In the story of Naboth’s Vineyard (I Kings 21), the King of Israel is shown to be a spoiled, middle-aged, child. King Ahab is easily persuaded to commit murder. All Queen Jezebel has to do is appeal to the man’s unbridled pride in being the king (think Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be the King”). When we are spiritually immature, our pride makes us vulnerable.

 

By way of contrast, Naboth is spiritually attuned to the way God has tied the providence of his family, and the dignity of his ancestors (think humus — the rich loam that forms the root word of humanity and humility), with the working of the soil. He will not sell his vineyard for it is the living, organic, means that rural society has to care for the future generation.

 

Sunday, June 12, 2016
Pentecost 6

A Fundamental Difference

I think we should pay attention whenever Jesus makes a direct comparison between how his people do things and the standard procedure of the rest of the world. In Mark 10:37, Jesus gets asked a simple question, “When you take over, who are you going to have as your right hand man (or woman)?” It’s the kind of question that we’ll be asking the 2016 field of presidential candidates when it gets winnowed down a bit more, “Who’s going to be your running mate, Jesus?” His two-part answer pleases no one.

 

Part 1: Jesus says that among his people, the person at the top of the organizational chart empties the trash and cleans the toilets. The first place person is servant to all. The pyramid of power is inverted. This is not a token performance, such as when the Pope washes the feet of a peasant on Maundy Thursday. This is a fundamental aspect of the church, all christian mission organizations, every committee, and even of our families and the places where we mix with those  outside the faith. The higher we go in a work environment, the more humble our attitude and approach to every decision must be. In politics and in our families, we are always mindful of the Psalm 8:2

Sunday, October 18, 2015
Pentecost 24

Poignantly Paul

From the prison cell, where he is cut off from the lifeblood of Christian fellowship, Paul speaks with clarity about how church is meant to be. Ephesians 4:1-16 should be read by those nominated to church office, should be responsively chanted at church council meetings, and should be prayerfully kept in mind as we enter our fall reorganizational and vision casting gatherings.

 

In 4:2, Paul begins by establishing a guideline for Christian behavior. We are not an NFL football team, nor are we Walmart. Out goal is not to win, grow, or make a profit. We are to be the church, which means in every instance to be humble with each other, loving, gentle, striving always for unity and peace. I know of youth group leaders and conflict management consultants who begin their gatherings with putting a set of behavior agreements up on the board. It may be useful to rework this scripture into a statement of behavior that we will hold ourselves to in church leadership.

 

Sunday, August 2, 2015
Pentecost 13

Authority?

I warned our dog, Bella, that she’d be in the blog this week. She didn’t care. She prefers to be stubborn. The current problem involves antibiotic pills that I am hiding in her doggie treats. I say, “Trust me.” She doesn’t. She eats the treat and spits out the pill. We argue. She growls, “Who made you an authority over me?” It’s the same place Moses was in as he led people across the wilderness. People were grumbling because Moses picked camping sites without regard to water.

 

 “We’re thirsty,” people said.   

 

“This is where God said we should camp,” Moses replied.

 

“Who made you boss?”

 

“God.”

 

Sunday, September 28, 2014
Pentecost 21
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