Sunday, January 4, 2015

Christmas 2, 2014: Humble faith bent low

Lectionary: Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 84 or 84:1-8; Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a; Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

Today's sermon was preached from notes, which are posted below.

Someone once asked a Rabbi: why can’t people see the face of God? The rabbi answered: When we can’t see the face of God, it’s because there are so few anymore who are willing to stoop that low. We must learn to bend low, to bow, to kneel. Only then will we see God face to face.

Grant, O God, that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity…

Humility: story of my experience of a 1974 magazine interview of Mother Theresa.

Grant, O God, that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity…

Theologian Brother Wayne Teasdale says, “The spiritual life is impossible without the virtue of humility… Humility… keeps us honest, cutting away self-deception, falsehood, and inauthenticity. It rescues us from superficiality and compels us to… be true to ourselves and to others. Humility… forces us to stand in the light of truth… [it] is an egoless understanding of one’s own limitations.” (Wayne Teasdale, “The Mystic Heart,” New World Library, 1999, 126-127)

True vs False HUMILITY:

• Righteousness (right relationship) vs. Inflated sense of self (importance, power) or deflated sense of self
• Unity (God, others creation) vs. Every man for himself/his tribe

This is what Christians mean when we say Jesus “humbled himself to share our humanity.” (Collect for Xmas 2) God took on human limitations for a time and joined us to the limitlessness of God.
• “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a* mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’* (Mt 17:20)

Nothing will be impossible for us. Not because of our greatness, but because of the greatness of our humility, as St. John of the Cross said.

Gospel = Story of Joseph – icon of humility.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of David (Luke 2:4, 11), an auspicious birthplace. However, he grew up in Nazareth, and was known as Jesus of Nazareth rather than Jesus of Bethlehem. Therefore "'He shall be called a Nazorean,' ...may mean at least this: 'he shall be considered a nobody.’” (1 Cor 1: cf. Judg 6-7 and Gideon)" (Bruner, 61). (

It is so tempting to spend our time and energy accomplishing the goals society sets for us: wealth, power, influence, security… these are earthly goals. It’s helpful to remember that Jesus accomplished none of these goals during his earthly life.

Thomas Keating once said, “The greatest accomplishment in life is to be who you are, and that means to be who God wanted you to be when [God] created you.” (Teasdale, 127) I think this is true of us as individuals and as the body of Christ, the church.

This represents a more difficult and humble accomplishment, but Jesus promised that nothing would be impossible for us, so we have every reason to hope that we can accomplish this goal.

Humility, like any other spiritual discipline, takes practice. So, here are a few tips for practicing humility:

1. Pray. Let time in the presence of God take priority over the other things on our very important To-Do lists.
2. Make space for God in your prayer. Be quiet. Stop talking. Listen. Feel. God speaks to us, touches us, heals us, and changes us when we pray. All we have to do is invite God in and enjoy the transformation.
3. Make space for others in your priorities. Move from the place of first to last. (Mt 20:16) Rather than telling God what we want or need, we ask God, ‘How can I serve you, Lord, by serving those in need? What would you have me give as my tithe?’
4. Detach from outcomes. Success and failure are illusions of an unenlightened heart They are earthly values. The path we walk leads inevitably to crucifixion, and ultimately, to resurrection; and it’s a path we can only walk in faith.
5. Build community from a place of equality. The least matter. Every life matters. This is embodied in the church, the body of Christ, where the least and the first share the same adoption “through Christ according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph 1:5).
6. Remember our place in the cosmos, the communion of saints, and the Christian narrative. “The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.” (Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, Random House, 1994, 6)
Bible: We are part of a great story of redemption, but we are only here for a moment. While we are here, our job is to be faithful partners with God in Christ in this work of redemption, remembering those who went before and passing the torch of our faithfulness to those who will follow us.
7. And finally, believe. To believe is to put the promises of God, fulfilled in Jesus Christ, ahead of our doubts, our logic, our experience – in essense, our small vision of truth. To believe is to trust God – and that requires no small amount of humility. If we believe that the redemption of God has already been accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus, then we know it has already happened. It is accomplished. All we have to do is live our lives like we believe that and open the path, removing all obstacles, so others can get there too.

Today is the 11th of our celebration of the 12 Days of Christmas.

Move into the season of Epiphany – reflecting on what the revelation of the Christ in us means for us as individuals and church community).

As we do that…

Grant, O God, that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity…

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