Homily: Humility is not Humiliation

I was supposed to deliver this homily tomorrow at a rehab hospital in north Toronto, but I’ve been bumped. So, here it is for you to read and feel blessed 😉

The reading was Luke 14:1,7-14

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Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Humility. Being humble. Some of us are, some of us – maybe, most of us are not. Some people even tell me how humble they are, a rather strange thing to say indeed. And some people don’t have to tell me because they live it. Humbleness of heart is something you are, something you live, not something you proclaim for yourself.

In our reading today we get a sense of how important Jesus thinks it is for us to be humble. He’s sitting down teaching and he’s noticing that everyone is jockeying for position. They all want to sit in the place of honour. They all want to be first. In Matthew’s Gospel we read about how Jesus’ very own disciples ask who will be greatest in heaven. Jesus points to a child and says “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

It is interesting to me that today’s reading comes from the Gospel of St. Luke. Luke, was a Doctor, a well educated man, able to read and write and knowledgeable in the ways of medicine, such as it was back then. Now, I hope all of you have good humble Doctors while you’re here. In our society we tend to place Doctors on a pedestal as knowledgeable, caring healers. So, it’s interesting that God chose a Doctor to be the only Gospel writer to tell us of this story. It’s a Doctor who tells us of Jesus words to the crowd that they should not seek honour, but rather, we should seek to be humble before the Lord and in turn he promises that the Lord will elevate us and give us honour at the proper time.

Proverbs 25:6-7 says
Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence
or stand in the place of the great,
7 for it is better to be told, “Come up here,”
than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.

We do not demand honour from the mighty King, our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather He has come to us and invited us into His love because his love is an all consuming fire that brings us into his presence to share in his divine love.

It is important to remember that humility is not the same as humiliation. In fact, in today’s teaching Jesus is telling us that to seek after honour will result in humiliation, but to humble ourselves before the cross is to be made worthy of honour.

The letter of James reminds us that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Why doesn’t God give grace to the proud? Because the proud think they either deserve it or don’t need it, so what would they do with it?

So, first you humble yourself before the cross of Christ because of what he’s done for you. Then, as more and more grace is poured out over your life, it leads you to become more thankful – giving that thanks to God and in response, Grace increases, making you more thankful, and on and on and on.

Listen to these simple words of St. Peter who said: Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

You are all here because you have faced trial, physical and perhaps emotional pain. Take heart, there is a God who loves you and will give you the grace to live through the trials. Our job is to act like a people who have received grace and grace abundantly. Humble yourself before the God of love and receive the fullness of life that only He can offer.

In the words of St. Paul I say “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Amen.

The two directions of death

Rosie O Beirne dying at home hands on pink blanket google 624x416

This post is part of a MennoNerds Synchro-Blog on the topic of
Death, Loss, Pain and Grief, July 14-30, 2013.
Check out our page on MennoNerds.com to see all the other posts in this series

 

He had gotten up at sunrise and we found him sitting in a chair, on the back porch of his house, eyes open, staring at a beautiful backyard scene in the sun. He was dead.

Another was lying half on and half off his couch, arms extended as if reaching for something as he realized life was slipping away.

Another I never saw. I never saw them because once we opened the door, the odour told us all we needed to know. We closed the door and called the coroner.

 

I’ve seen death. I’ve heard people take their last breaths and I’ve been the last person someone has every spoken too.

I came home one day many years ago and found my Father laying on the ground, he was dead too. I’d just left him about 8 hours before to go the last day of week long wilderness rescue course. That would be ironic except on any other day I was answering 911 calls for medical help or dispatching Ambulances to those calls. Telling your Mom her husband of 30 years has died isn’t something any child should have to do.

I’ve seen death progress. I’ve seen people make peace with the Lord and their families and friends.

Last year my mother-in-law died from cancer. She found a lump and it was eventually diagnosed as rare and incurable. She was always a quiet woman and my wife says she was the most at peace in those final weeks and months.

They often say that there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes. I disagree, the only certainty is death. There is something though that death points us to that we often don’t realize. Death is a two way arrow pointing us to the reality of the life that came before it and the question of what comes next.

No matter how young a person is when they die, their must by definition have been life and, no matter how old they are, questions of what comes after.

It was the death of my Father that prompted me to reflect on those facts and eventually led me to make a significant life decision. As I said I was working for the local Emergency Medical Service at the time as a Dispatcher. I’m not sure if I had more good days than bad but I know I wasn’t sleeping well at all. I once went 4 days in a row without sleep. After my Father died, I started asking questions of a more eternal nature and those eventually led to me to return to the faith of my youth.

Eventually, after 8.5 years I’d finally had enough of working for EMS. I just couldn’t take the politics and the crap anymore. I reflected on the reality that I was 31 and my Father died at 63. If I only live at long as him, then I was effectively middle age. That thought terrified me, as did doing the same job for another 30 years or so.

So, I resigned and my last day was January 1, 2009. Since then, I’ve moved three times, sold my condo, started and finished my B.A., Religious Studies at Tyndale University, got married and we are now expecting our first child in December.

I never thought of it this way before, but the death of my Father set in motion events that eventually led to the creation of another family; my wife and I and however many children we are given.

Death makes us look back and look forward. Death is scary but it can also be a gift to those who care to pay attention.

Why write . . .

250px Saint Augustine Portrait

St. Augustine writing

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I write this blog, especially in the context of engagement with others as well as my participation in various social media such as Facebook and Twitter. There are days when I feel like it’s a complete waste of time and completely ego driven and then there are the times when I delude myself into thinking I’ve got something useful to say. My wife and I use Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith for our nightly devotionals. Today’s reading gave me pause to consider the value of writing for the sake or writing. Nouwen writes:

Making Our Lives Available to Others

One of the arguments we often use for not writing is this:
“I have nothing original to say. Whatever I might say, someone else has already said it, and better than I will ever be able to.” This, however, is not a good argument for not writing. Each human being is unique and original, and nobody has lived what we have lived. Furthermore, what we have lived, we have lived not just for ourselves but for others as well. Writing can be a creative and invigorating way to make our lives available to ourselves and to others.

We have to trust that our stories deserve to be told. We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to live them.

That second last line is a killer: We have to trust that our stories deserve to be told. Two words that I have trouble with: trust and deserve. This is the very opposite of ego, it requires healthy self-esteem. We are all just one of the approximately 7 billion humans living on the earth right now, never mind throughout all of history. To think that we might actually have something worthwhile to contribute to God’s story is hard to fathom.

I will keep writing, if for no other reason than to give me a place to write the thoughts that are in my head and in the hope that God can use it to engage with someone out in the world.

If you have a blog or other public writing forum, why do you do it?

Judas, how did it come to this?

JudasKiss1

Oh Judas Iscariot, how did it come to this? You sat at the feet of the living God and you still betrayed Him. In some ways I suppose I should thank you. Without your betrayals Jesus would never have been arrested. Without arrest, there would have been no crucifixion and therefore no resurrection. Still, I ask, why? You had an opportunity many of us wish we could have. A true, face to face, living experience of the Christ, Jesus; Son of the Living God and King of all.

You betrayed him not once but several times. The evangelists have nothing good to say about you. You never really gave yourself fully over to His will and His teaching did you? You were only in it for personal gain. You stole from the common purse: not just from Jesus but from your fellow apostles. You criticized your Lord for allowing Mary to anoint His feet with expensive ointment (John 12:1-8). Perhaps worse, you hid your disdain behind a mask of charity, claiming you would use the money for the benefit of the poor. You would’ve skimmed at least some of if off the top though. My question is where you would’ve hidden that much money or what you planned to do with it, but I suppose we will never know the answers to those questions.

Why, Judas, why?

You killed yourself you know? No, I don’t mean when you committed suicide, you had killed yourself long before that time. Your faith was so weak, you are always listed last among the apostles, that you allowed the spirit of evil to enter you (Luke 22:3), You agreed to act as a spy and guide to the time and place of Jesus’ arrest. You sold out your Lord for a bit of silver, a bit of prominence, perhaps a feeling of power. You believed you gained when you really lost so much more.

Then, you went to the passover meal, where Jesus said: “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

You took part in this sacred time, the night before your Lord was to be betrayed by your kiss and you partook anyway. Did you stay because you needed to hear where he would be the next few days? Did you need to know what His plans were so you knew where to lead the temple guard? Did St. Paul have you in mind when he wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians (11:27-32): “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 dLet a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged8 ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

If anyone has ever partaken of the bread and wine unworthily it was you. You certainly did not examine yourself, you knew you were up to no good. There is no evidence you showed any discernment whatsoever, except towards evil. You killed yourself through the steady betrayals of the Jesus and the image of God you were made in.

Judas, we don’t really know where you ended up after your suicide You seemed to be repentant of your actions, but instead of doing the handwork of reconciliation you gave away the precious gift of life. I certainly hope the love of God covered you in those final moments, because otherwise it was not all redeemed. What I mean is this: you betrayed the Lord into the hands of the evil one, but God, knower of all things, redeemed that evil act through the resurrection. So, I hope that your participation in the event was somehow redeemed. Not because you didn’t have personal responsibility, but because the evil you committed was directly connected to the ultimate plan of salvation set in motion at the incarnation.

A flood of grace

I preached this morning on Luke 15:11-32, commonly known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The key point in my message was that it was the extravagant love of God, as shown through His grace that is the key message of that parable. That God’s grace is recklessly, extravagantly spent on all who seek it through His son Jesus Christ. He doesn’t just give us the exact amount of grace we need to cover the sins we have, he gives us an abundance of grace in order to overwhelm us with His love.

This lea to another thought . . .

God’s grace overwhelms us like a wave, a tsunami of love that so completely overwhelms us that we are knocked off our feet (as it were). God’s grace washes away and destroys evil. What will be left in the end, when the waves of grace recede from the earth, will be the remnant that God has called to Himself and that has responded and remained faithful to His call. (Yes, I realize grace never actually disappears, but hopefully you’ll see where I’m going).

This “wave” imagery of understanding God’s grace and movement in the world intrigues me. It makes me think of two other events recorded in Sacred Scripture: Noah and the flood (Genesis 6ff) & the Passover (Exodus 12ff)

In both stories, God completely overwhelms either the whole earth (flood) or a kingdom (Egypt). The effect of both of those events is that God wipes away evil (to varying degrees) and saves for Himself a remnant that He uses to advance His cause.

As Jesus said, “ 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (RSVCE). He is here to divide; grace divides because it is foolish to those who cannot accept it. Those who do not accept it, those who do not see it for what it is, will be swept away by that same grace. They will be swept out to sea, instead of being pulled in towards God.

Grace as demonstrated through Christ is the final outworking of God’s grace completely flooding all of the created order and to bring back to God His chosen remnant, bound to each other through Jesus Christ.

A Haven

The meditation from my morning prayer, using Celtic Daily Prayer.

A Haven

Lord, take this song
and fill it with Your presence.
Let it bring a word of hope
to weary care-full hearts.
Take this song
and fill it, Lord
Fill it with Yourself.

Lord, take my life
and fill it with Your praises.
Let me speak a word of peace
that Jesus brings in me.
Take this life
and fill it, Lord.
Fill it with Yourself.

Lord, take this place
and fill it
with your blessing.
Let it be a haven
where the poor in spirit
sing.

Take this place
and fill it, Lord.
Fill it with Your praise.

page 63-64

New Year’s Resolution: 365 Reasons to Give Thanks

SInce my last post was a bit of a downer, I thought I’d repost this young ladies wonderfully inspiring message.

A SMILE EACH DAY

The ball dropped. Did you see it? Within a quick ten second countdown, the clocks struck midnight and we were once again faced with a new year. Besides the cliche horn-blowing and excessive hugging, I always love those first few moments of the new year. It marks a simplicity that I cherish. For those first few moments, the complicated build-up of the past twelve months seems to disappear and I am once again greeted with a fresh start that is liberating and unknown. Even though it is really just another day, the new year gives us the opportunity to start anew. It’s magical, really.

I always make a New Year’s Resolution. Sure, it’s cliche to do so, but it doesn’t have to be. In past years, I have made those typical resolutions–exercise more, start a new hobby, go on a diet–and like many others, I have failed to…

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