10.21.2010

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 25), Year C

Joel 2:23-32 and Psalm 65
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14


Maybe it is just our current station in life-what we bring to the text
often shows up-but it seems we often see in scripture an emphasis
placed on Humility.

Here are some questions that keep rattling around for us:
How is Humility important?
What happens to us when we become 'less Humble'?
What role does Humility play in our relationships? Is it important
there? Why or why not?
Are the Humble somehow rewarded?

Certainly, in this week's scriptures the question is driven by a
fantastic line from the writer of the Gospel of Luke: Jesus also told
this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were
righteous and regarded others with contempt.

We had never noticed that this parable was set up with such a
directive stage setting!

Jesus goes on to talk about the Pharisee (pious religious figure)
patting himself on the back in prayer while the Tax Collector (assumed
social low life) is praying only for the mercy of God. Jesus then
offers the commentary to those "who trusted in themselves that they
were righteous and regarded others with contempt": "All who exalt
themselves will be Humbled, but all who Humble themselves will be
exalted."

That message is a rare one today, isn't it?

Matt just finished an annual performance review and was encouraged by
his supervisor to cut down on Humility some and "advertise himself" a
bit more.

And how do we balance Humility and confidence?

Is the writer of this passage in 2nd Timothy Humble or arrogant? "I
have fought the fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the
faith.....from now on there is reserved for me the crown of
righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on
that day, and not only to me but to all who have longed for his
appearing." Is he simply confident in his faith, or has he stepped
over a line and is "tooting his own horn"? Or, has the author truly
"poured" himself out and as a result, is claiming righteousness as a
response to his self-sacrifice to this point? Can we be proud of who
we are and how far we have come and how far God has brought us without
becoming arrogant?

And what happens if we do slide over the line and become arrogant?
What happens if we stray from our Humility?

Our guess is that a healthy element of Humility keeps a person
reminded that s/he lives in connection to others and that others are
important to his/her existence. And a derth of Humility puts a person
in a place where s/he is only dependent and trusting in his/her own
abilities.

In the Hebrew culture, there was a prominent tradition of Wisdom. The
culture was underpinned by a notion that there was a right way and a
wrong way. In the passage from Joel, we get the impression that the
people have chosen a right way and will be rewarded in some way. The
Lord is present and vindicating their hardship with early rain, ample
supplies, good health and annointings. It is as if the prophet can
promise these things because of the Humiliating circumstances the
community has endured.

We live in a sharply divided space where we are sometimes convinced
that success is based on our achievement (as defined by our material
culture). But Jesus taught in a world that was much less divided.
Success was interlaced with God and with righteousness and with how
people lived out the covenant of the Israelites. Somehow Humility
seems more palatable when its interlaced in a total package of Life
and Balance and Humanity.

God,
I want to humble myself before you...
to be ok with falling to my knees
to be ok with taking the lesser share
to be ok with pouring myself out
and receiving no notice
no accolade.
Help me taste righteousness
in all its combined flavor
both the sweet and the bitter
balanced -
full.
Amen.


© matt & laura norvell 2010 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world;
we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words.
May Grace & Peace be with you.

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