Benediction Online

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Walking Humbly

It’s a very un-American virtue. I think many of us misunderstand what it’s all about. Yet it is a virtue which is especially important in the Christian life and in today’s gospel, Jesus speaks directly to it. Our first lesson from the apocryphal book Sirach talked about one of the deadly sins. This is the virtue which is its opposite.

What am I talking about?


Perhaps the whole of the spiritual life can be summed up in this verse from Malachi 6: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.

Let’s get rid of some misconceptions.

Humility is NOT being a door mat. Humility is not putting up with things that could be changed. Humility is not always worrying about imposing on other people. Humility is not thinking that everyone else is better than you. Humility is not wringing your hands and saying what a bad person you are.

Humility is knowing who you are and where you stand in the universe. Humility is being interested in others and asking them to talk before you talk about yourself. Humility is generously and carefully listening to other’s opinions even when they differ from your own. Humility is trusting that God will help you get where you need to be so you don’t have to push and manipulate to get to the top.

Humility is knowing that God’s amazing and compassionate love is available to everyone, and that God has no favorites. You and I are as important to God as Martin Luther King Jr. and as loved by God as Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.

So there’s no point in pushing yourself forward, it doesn’t achieve anything. And there’s no point in hanging back, hoping that someone will see your talent and call you forward. Because there’s no back or front or up and down. We are all equally valuable and equally important and equally beloved.

“Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” How do we walk humbly with God? This may be the most difficult thing for human beings to do. The Greeks told the story of Icarus who found a way to fly but became over-confident and proud, and flew too near the sun. His wings melted and he fell to the ground.

The ancient Hebrew people suggested that the reason we are separated from God is that the very earliest humans thought that they knew better than God and ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge. And then when God came walking in the garden in the cool of the evening, they were ashamed and embarrassed and they hid from him.

Humans thinking they can do it alone. Humans thinking they have no need of God. Humans forgetting that God is the life in all beings. We can make robots and machines and mechanical birds but we cannot breathe life into anything. Life is the breath of God. Without God we are just an interesting collection of molecules.

Yet we forget that. Even if you agree with me now, there’s a good chance that by the end of this morning’s service we’ll be back thinking we get to do it all ourselves. It’s difficult for us to keep turning our lives and our wills over to God. “Not my will but thine be done”, as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I think that is why Jesus is our example. Not because of the things he did. Not because of the things he said. But because of his relationship with his Abba Father. The gospels each give us a different picture of this foundational relationship, but they all show Jesus doing God’s will, living all the time with an awareness of the presence of the divine Creator. That is what we are called to do.

Right relationship with God is not the chatty relationship of friends or neighbors but a deep turning over of our lives to the divine. Daily aligning our wills with divine will. Every morning saying, “Show me what you would have me do, and be, today.” In every situation saying “Not my will but thine be done”.

Since God loves us unconditionally and extravagantly, God’s will is for our highest good. God’s will is for us to live full, rich and purposeful lives. So why wouldn’t we turn our wills over to God? Why wouldn’t we want what God wants?

…Because of sin, our notion that we can manage without God, that somehow our plans are better.

That, my friends, is pride.

True healing comes as we come into right relationship with God, as we pray “Not my will but Thine be done”. True healing comes as we do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God.


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