Humility

“Can you drink the cup I drink?" Jesus asks, referring to his crucifixion

Who is the best? James and John wanted to know. They asked their question at a most inconvenient time. So, Jesus gave them back an inconvenient question.

For: 
October 17, 2021
Mark 10:35-45
Pentecost 24
"How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?” - Proverbs

We ask our preachers to think for us, when we should be asking them to struggle with us in prayer and holy listening, so that together we might discover the truths we need to live wisely in our complicated world.

For: 
September 12, 2021
Proverbs 1:20-33
James 3:1-12
Pentecost 19
David ordered his messengers to get Bathsheba... - II Samuel 11:4

Every person, no matter what their role in life, needs to be aware of the temptation that power offers us. David was led astray, not by Bathsheba bathing on the roof-top, but by his desire to be a "real" king. Many Kings act like dictators. They expect to have any woman they want. Men in lesser possitions often do the same thing. Power corrupts.

For: 
July 25, 2021
2 Samuel 11
Philippians 2:6-7
Pentecost 12
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" - Jesus

Jesus is saying in his first message, "I am not blessing you for your accomplishments. You are already blessed for being on the path. Blessed are all those who hunger and thirst to become better people. Your heart will be filled with goodness."

For: 
November 8, 2020
Matthew 5:1-12
Pentecost 23
For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted - Jesus

The world has its class system. Jesus says, “don’t bring it home.” We should root out all hierarchy in our personal life.

For: 
November 1, 2020
Matthew 23:1-12
Pentecost 22

In the spiritual world there is no doubt, all are loved. In this world, however, we toil under constantly changing conditions. Sometimes we are accepted. Sometimes we are scorned. We learn in time to doubt ourselves.

For: 
March 1, 2020
Matthew 4:1-11
Lent 1
"If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!"
Jesus has a different definition of leadership. It is for him to work with others so that together good things happen. He has commitment to service. He can be the king of love without a crown of gold. Even his thorns and painful death remind us that life is not about the people we lord over but the humility we live under.
For: 
November 24, 2019
Luke 23:33-43
Pentecost 29
"All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted." -Jesus

In matters of religion, we should expect reversals. Those who start out well, don’t always end well. Getting into heaven is not a matter of joining the right church or developing the right theology or holding on to traditional values, whatever those might be.

For: 
October 27, 2019
Luke 18:9-14
Pentecost 20

Because we aren’t there, in the same place as those crowds, we are reluctant to consider Jesus’ promises of blessing as something that is already happening. Those who were blessed in Jesus’ sermon were the same people who saw the blessings of his healing touch and his compassionate lifestyle. We tend to put these blessings up in heaven. Those who encountered Jesus looked for his blessing to be right now, on this earth.

For: 
February 17, 2019
Luke 6:17-26
Epiphany 6
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." 

For: 
November 18, 2018
Psalm 16
Pentecost 26
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.  

For: 
November 6, 2018
Psalm 127
Pentecost 25
[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.

For: 
October 21, 2018
Mark 10:43-44
Pentecost 22
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.

For: 
October 14, 2018
Psalm 90
Pentecost 21
Fall Season

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.

For: 
November 5, 2017
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Matthew 23:1-12
Pentecost 26
All Saints Day

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.

 

For: 
June 12, 2016
1 Kings 21
Psalm 32
Pentecost 6

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