28 August 2022
One word, perhaps, sum up the Lectionary readings this week: humility. In the face of a culture in which we are all encouraged to ‘value ourselves’, to ‘reach for what we want’ and to ‘not let anyone stop us’, this can be a difficult, even ridiculous, word. To claim that true, vibrant, authentic life is found in simplicity, fidelity, contentment and humility sounds naive and out of touch. And yet, this is exactly what Jesus asks us to believe – and to embrace – this week.
May our worship re-align our priorities and bring us the richness that comes from humility.
Jeremiah 2:4-13: God speaks out against God’s people who have forgotten God’s salvation and turned to other gods – God’s people have abandoned God who is the fountain of living water and have dug cracked cisterns for themselves.
OR Sirach 10:12-18: In pride people have departed from God, and God has brought them low and put the humble and lowly in their place.
OR Proverbs 25:6-7: Don’t push for a place of greatness. Rather wait for an invitation than be humiliated.
Psalm 81:1, 10-16: God brought Israel out of Egypt, and longs for Israel to listen to God and follow God’s ways, but they want nothing to do with God.
OR Psalm 112: Those who fear and obey God, who are generous and righteous will know a life of goodness, confidence and richness.
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16: Words to live by: Love one another and be hospitable, share the pain of those who suffer, be faithful in marriage, be content with what you have and follow the example of faithful leaders.
Luke 14:1, 7-14: Jesus advises his followers not to take places of honour at feasts, in case they be asked to move and are humiliated. Rather, he invites them to take seats at the foot of the table, so that if they are invited to a better place, they will be honoured. Further, when hosting dinners, he encourages them to invite those who cannot repay – the marginalised and rejected.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The theme this week is easy to spot – but tough to preach and implement in our world. Pride leads God’s people to turn to their own resources and reject God’s ways and God’s resources (Jeremiah & Psalm 81). The result of this is inevitable failure or harm (Sirach) or the humiliation of being turned away from sought-after places of honour that we do not ‘deserve’ (Proverbs & Luke). Rather, honour and fullness of life are found in a humble commitment to following God’s ways (Psalm 112), remaining faithful and trusting, and living with grace, generosity, compassion, fidelity, and inclusive hospitality (Hebrews and Luke).
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: In our celebrity-obsessed world, the quest for recognition, influence, wealth, fame and the praise of others drives all too many of us. Ultimately, this pride-filled drivenness leads us into conflict and destructiveness, as all of life becomes a game of winners and losers. The great narratives of different faiths are then placed in competition with each other for the ‘honour’ of being the ‘ultimate truth’. The priorities of nations are placed into conflict as politicians wrestle to find a place in the corridors of world power, while their people’s needs are used as bargaining chips or forgotten altogether. Values, integrity and fidelity all end up being expendable as success, victory or popularity become the ends which justify any means. And, as this driven, competitive way of being spreads through the world, we all pay the price in increasing rates of divorce, heart (and other) disease, conflict and inequality. But, of course, those who end up paying the most are those at the ‘bottom’ of the game – the innocent losers. Into all of this a simple word of justice speaks – humility can heal our world. As we learn, individually, nationally and globally, to live with simplicity, contentment, respect and integrity – and expect the same from our leaders and our corporations – the game of winners of losers begins to shift to a playful, collaborative game of shared benefit. And then, our eyes are opened to the fullness of life that is found in the hidden, poor and forgotten places – places that the rich and wealthy never see.
LOCAL APPLICATION: The proud values of our world have too often and too easily been adopted by people and communities of faith. We give more importance and value to the big, the rich and the successful pastors, writers and churches, while ignoring the smaller ones who may be doing far more practical and important work within their communities of touching the poor, the rejected and the suffering. Worship leaders are the new rock stars, preachers the new motivational gurus, churches the new stages on which slick performances are produced each week, while church goers strive to become the next singing, speaking or writing sensation. More than this, we compete against ourselves, claiming that our version of the Gospel, our worship or our interpretation of the Scriptures is better than others. And we strive to be the best recognised and most influential in our neighbourhoods or cities. Too often the voices that lead and influence us even in the Church are not those who are the most devoted, prayerful or compassionate, but those who have succeeded at society’s game. What would it mean for you, as an individual and as a church community, to take the lowliest seat at the table? To step out of the game of success and winning, and into the world of simplicity, humility and service? To give the most attention and energy not to the wealthy, recognised or influential, but to the forgotten, the marginalised and the excluded? What would your Church look like if it embraced humility and simplicity as its primary values? How would it need to change?
RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Biographers of the Least
Weak And Poor God
In Praise Of Being Noticed
Take Time To Be Holy
When I Survey The Wondrous Cross
Be Thou My Vision
What Can I Do (Link to YouTube video)
We Are An Offering (Link to YouTube video)
What I Have Vowed (Link to YouTube video)
A Simple Communion Liturgy