Monday, September 2, 2013

Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Christ Crucified
Diego Valasquez

'For all who exalt themselves will be humbled,
and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’

Humility is a most overlooked quality in in our society.
Most of us admire it when we see it in those we don’t expect to have it.
In fact that is when we notice it the most.
We notice humility when we don’t expect it.

And if you think about it, that is right.

Humility by its very nature should not be visible.

Imagine, instead of an Oscar, or a Grammy, or an Aria, that there was 'Humbly.'
A 'Humbly' is the award for the person who showed the most humility in the world that year.

First imagine the selection process.
What would the criteria be?
How could you define the most humble?
How would you even know about their activities?

The committee would have to find these people.
How? The only way could be if other people nominated them without the knowing.
You can’t nominate yourself for an award for humility.
To do so is not humble.

Then, let’s say they do get some nominees.
How could any of them accept the award?
To accept an award for humility lacks humility.
There would be this never ending cycle of people deferring the award to the other nominees.
All being humble, and out humbling themselves.

The whole thing wouldn’t work.

This is so typical of Jesus. He turns the world upside down. He reverses expectations.
What used to be right is wrong.

For all who exalt themselves will be humbled,
and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’

And the thing is that Jesus didn’t just say this. He lived it.
He wore rags when he could have worn the best clothes there were.
He could have worn a crown of gold, but he wore one of thorns.
He could have sat upon a throne, but he was nailed to a cross.

As St Paul tells us in his letter to the Phillipians:

Christ Jesus,who, 
though he was in the form of God, 
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 
but emptied himself, 
taking the form of a slave, 
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form, 
he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— 
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, 
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, 
to the glory of God the Father.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death
—even death on a cross. 

In his death, Jesus showed the ultimate in humility.
Obedient to the point of death.
And we know that being crucifed was the most shameful way to die.

So Jesus lived with humility, his death was also in complete humility.

Paul gives us more of clue to humility

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 
So being humble means having no ambitions for ourselves.
It means not being conceited.
It means regarding others as better than us.
But I think his last clause is the most significant.
We aren’t to look out for our own selves, but rather for others.

Society in our time is allergic to humility.
It does not understand it, and it does not recognise its value.
Our society is one that rewards those who push themselves to the top,
who win the game,
who have the most likes on facebook,
or who has the most money,
or friends,
or the most influence.

Humility can’t compete with that.
It is like oil and water.
And that is why Christ’s message seems so lost amidst all the noise.

But the one thing the world can’t ignore is the figure of Christ on the cross,
in that act of selflessness,
in that act of putting others needs ahead of his own,
in that ultimate act of humility.
The world can’t ignore the crucified Christ.
Within that act, humility is shown to have the greatest power that the world has ever seen. By dying for all, he saved all.
Christ upon the cross shows the world the true meaning of humility.

'For all who exalt themselves will be humbled,
and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’

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