Posts Tagged ‘humility’

The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself. He knows that a curse is on the man who allows his own property to degenerate. And if you think my opinion worthless, then listen to one who is wiser than I: “The fool,” said Solomon, “comes out with all his feelings at once, but the wise man subdues and restrains them.” Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare. So urgent is the charity of those through whom the streams of heavenly doctrine flow to us, that they want to pour it forth before they have been filled; they are more ready to speak than to listen, impatient to teach what they have not grasped, and full of presumption to govern others while they know not how to govern themselves.—St. Bernard of Clairvaux

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Lessons:  Acts 16: 11-40;  Acts 9: 36-43;  Romans 16: 1-2


 Filled with thy Holy Spirit, gracious God, thine earliest disciples served Thee with the gifts each had been given: Lydia in business and stewardship, Dorcas in a life of charity and Phoebe as a deaconess who served many. Inspire us today to build up Thy Church with our gifts in hospitality, charity and bold witness to the Gospel of Christ;  who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 These women were exemplary Christians who demonstrated their faith by their material support of the Church. Dorcas (also known as Tabitha) was well-known and much loved for her acts of charity in the city of Joppa, especially for her making clothes for the poor. When Dorcas died suddenly, the members of her congregation sent to the neighboring city of Lydda for the Apostle Peter, who came and raised her from the dead (Acts 9:36–41). Lydia was a woman of Thyatira, who worked at Philippi selling a famous purple dye that was so much in demand in the ancient world. She was also a “worshiper of God” at the local synagogue. When the Apostle Paul encountered her in prayer among other proselyte women, his preaching of the Word brought Lydia to faith in Christ. She and her friends thus became the nucleus of the Christian community in Philippi (16:13–15, 40). Phoebe was another faithful woman associated with the Apostle Paul. She was a deaconess from Cenchrae (the port of Corinth) whom Paul sent to the church in Rome with his Epistle to the Romans. In it he writes of her support for the work of the early Church (Rom 16:1).

“One can say that in Christianity the extraordinary has become ordinary, but also the ordinary has become extraordinary, usual unusual, the common uncommon,that what all do has been transformed into priestly work and to a sacrifice that is offered to the most high God…. [T]he Lord Jesus was followed by a number of women whose names have come down to us. Kings are forgotten, emperors have fallen into the dust and there is no one to remember them; the names of these women, however, are still being mentioned. There are only a few things we know about them, and what is said seems insignificant to us. They made offerings  to the Son of Man from what they had …provided such little services, as he deserved before all others.  But because the common uncommon, thus these names are written in the Book of books.

…I said that because of Christianity uncommon has become common and the common uncommon the Spirit and the purpose and way it was done…. I point to Matthew 25. What does he say there by separating the sheep from the goats? Whom does he praise? Whom does He reproach? Whom does he call to inherit the kingdom of his Father? Does he call the heroes, who accomplished great things, the kings with their crowns and those who struck with their great swords and brought about great changes upon earth? What does He do? He names and praises the same common things that I have said Christianity has made uncommon. He says: “I was hungry” and so forth—”come, you blessed of my Father” (Mt 25:34)…. Thus, he asks for the food, for the drink, for the gift of oil and wine. He asks for all these common things, which I have said have become uncommon through his Spirit.—J. K. Wilhelm Loehe  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

One More Reflection:  Do great things.  America will be number one again.  Be a winner.  This is the way the world thinks and we do as well.  Serving is not natural, that is, according to fallen human nature which is self-centered and ego driven, and so self-serving, damaged in the Fall, damaged beyond all human repair. When I re-read Pr. Loehe’s reflection above, this is not the Christianity I want. I want successful and powerful Christianity especially in our mission here.  I think all the lamentation, “America is no longer a Christian nation”,  is the lament over lost power.  The Church had no political power and authority when Dorcas, Lydia and Phoebe lived upon this old earth. When it does boast political power, then the dangers abound.  As our Lord said to Pilate, “My Kingdom is not from this world.”  The Church did have power, though:  the Word and Deed of Jesus Christ in the lives of His faithful people.  Kings and the mighty change the world according to their will and things get worse. They make news but it is really as “old as Adam”.  The faithful women did good things in Christ Jesus and Faith, and they were salt of the earth, and people believed in the Lord.  We think our smartphones are just wonderful and adorable, the gadgets of power and we listen to them.  We need to listen to our Lord in His Word Who alone can change our souls day by day  to love as He first loved us.  

These holy women, who were made holy by Faith in Jesus, are acknowledged in the prayer above in their various vocations:  business woman, charitable worker and  deaconess. For instance:  Lydia was the first convert to the Faith in Europe.  And as a business woman who sold the dye of royal and costly purple, she might have been quite well-to-do.   I am struck by the non-judgmental listing of “business’  alongside with a “churchy”  sounding word, “deaconess”.  These are all vocations from the Lord, yes, even business!   If it weren’t for business, there would be no jobs.  There is no occupation that is displeasing to the Lord, except those occupied with evil…or vocations used for ignoble ends with sinful means.  Even a ‘churchy’ vocation can be used to serve self and not the Lord and can become evil as witnessed by clergy sexual sins.  And business men and women can serve the Lord and His people, and not the self.  Daily repentance is turning toward the Lord our whole lives to serve Him and His people.  It is in our daily vocations that we can serve and love our neighbors as to Christ Himself, not to save ourselves, as Jesus has already done that, but that our neighbor be served and be pointed to the Savior.  Dorcas, Lydia and Phoebe did so by charity, hospitality and serving, not waiting for suspect government to help the poor, the stranger, the widow, but actual acts of of corporate mercy.  

Almighty God, You stirred to compassion the hearts of Your dear servants Dorcas, Lydia, and Phoebe to uphold and sustain Your Church by their devoted and charitable deeds. Give us the same will to love You, open our eyes to see You in the least ones, and strengthen our hands to serve You in others, for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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Blessed Lord, since You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,  who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 Text:  St.  Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

The parable of the Sower is about the Sower.  A sower sows seed and he did so in a rather liberal manner by just casting the seed all over the place, all over the earth. The sower’s seed is the “word of the Kingdom”, the Word of God’s reign. After all, the Father causes His rain to fall on the just and the unjust. After all every Word that proceeds from God, every Word of the Bible, by His Word every man can live.  Jesus asked the disciples, Who do men say that I am?  Some say one of the prophets, some say John the Baptist…The Sower is not sowing men’s words, men’s opinions about God, man made theologies and religions, but the Word of the Kingdom, God’s reign, His Church.  Jesus already taught the disciples to pray, Thy Kingdom Come. God’s Kingdom, His Reign through, with and under His Son Jesus Christ will come without our prayer but in this prayer petition we pray it comes also among us day by day, as Luther taught in the catechisms. Nations and kingdoms rule by force and sadly sometimes by  the love of force. The Lord’s reign comes by the force of His love which is grace and peace for burdened sinners.  Jesus reiterated John the Baptist’s sermon:  The Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and  believe the good news.  The Church is Jesus’ seed company.

The Lord teaches that the  seed as the word of the Kingdom.  What is that word?  It is the Word of the Cross.  The reign of God does not come by glory but by suffering, the Cross. Seeds can only grow by being buried  in the soil.  Men and women are dead in His crucifixion and rise by the power of His indestructible life.  Hard-scrabble sinners seizing in faith Jesus Christ for the water of forgiveness in Baptism.  Into that hard-scrabble field He sent and went with His disciples, Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the eons.  He sent His disciples into a creation in “bondage to corruption”, as it is written in Romans, to spread the Word.  Amidst our own sin and sorrow, fightings and fears within and without, He has planted His Word, His seed.  Just think of the church throughout the world, His field in severe oppression in Islamic nations, in China, in Africa:  flourishing with enemies all about. The soil that is good is the soil that knows it cannot produce a plant, it needs a seed, good seed, from the Sower’s hand, His nail imprinted Hand, the Word of God’s grace and peace in Jesus Christ.  In His hand are the depths of the earth, His hands formed the dry land. Good soil knows it is soil.  The root word of “humility” is “humus”, soil.  Other soils, other people, other souls just won’t get it.

The Pharisees accused Jesus as a man healing people by the power of “Beelzebul, the prince of demons”.  Just before that charge, it is reported in Matthew 12: 14 that the Pharisees “…went out and conspired against Him, how to destroy Him.”  In chapter 11 the Lord’s cousin, John the Baptist had sent his disciples who did not really get it that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.  Two cities of which Jesus did many great deeds were unrepentant.  The times were hard and so was the soil. And here in chapter 13 sprouting up is our Lord’s Sermon of Parables: three quarters of them are all about seeds and plants growing.  This is what the reign of the Lord is like.  “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.”  1 Corinthians 15:  43

A seed in the ground growing. Sown in weakness.  Sown in death.  Against amazing all odds. Even malicious enemies. There is no moral law which makes a seed grow.

Along the beaten path, the road very traveled, that every Tom, Dick and Harry walks, the easy path that leads to destruction,  the devil comes along and snatches the seed of the Word of God’s reign.  Others, will fall on rocky ground and the Word is received with joy but something goes wrong or someone makes fun of the person’s new faith, it withers and dies.   Then the thorns of the “cares of this world”, and “deceitfulness of riches” chokes “the word” and there is no fruit.  His teaching here to the crowd is also guide to the harvest in the Lord’s reign of what to look out for in tending the fields.  The crowd goes down that easy path to destruction, not to tag along.  Yes, there will be tribulations, but behold, as He said, You will have troubles in this world, but behold, I have overcome the world…and wealth’s deceitfulness, it deceives with false security. But in the good soil Jesus taught the seed will produce a harvest, bountiful and green.  The Lord sends forth His Word like the rain and the snow and He purposes for it His will for us and our salvation.  The Lord numbers the harvest, 100, 60 or 30 bushels of grain, not us. The Lord  does this,

“…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” 

Those who understand the Word and to understand the Word one stands under the Word, not over it.  If some preacher, preaching something about Jesus says, If you just have really strong faith, then your will have fill in the blank, usually wealth, health and power, then I would be fancying myself a faith that I stand over God’s Word. Faith is not about getting what we want, but receiving what the Lord gives:  His grace, mercy and peace for us all. The sower is not efficient in his sowing technique, called “broadcast sowing”.  He broadcasts the Word of the Kingdom with liberal abandon and those who get it marvel that His Word would grow in them, and ever more marvel at the wonders of His generosity and grace.  The broadcast continues.  He who has ears, let him hear, Jesus tells the crowd.  He is still working the crowd, actually, working the soil. His will is that all come to the knowledge of the truth.  In Matthew chapter 11, He invites, Come to Me all who are burden and heavy laden.  In chapter, five, “The poor in spirit are blessed, because the reign of heaven is theirs!”  Jesus will work the soil in it’s  hardness, thorns and rocks.  As a grain of wheat, proclaimed Jesus, remains alone, until it is planted in the soil and dies and comes to life again, it can not bear much fruit.  The Word made flesh is the Word of the reign of God planted in His Cross for us all. His death is our death, the death of the deeds of the body and the Holy Spirit makes alive His Church, His people, His soil, His souls, as He is risen from the dead.  I am the vine you are the branches, without Me you can do nothing..

Is it not written that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are poor in spirit? Faith is, then, a poverty of spirit, a hunger and thirst, a poor, empty heart opening toward God so that He can put His grace into it. When God bestows His grace upon us, we are born anew and become partakers of the new life.(Bp.Bo Giertz, The Hammer of God)

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“…what we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert—himself.”

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These two photos are of one wooden statue depicting our Lord riding the donkey…complete with wheels! It is on display at The Cloisters in Manhattan which is a museum of nothing but Christian Medieval Art. This particular statue was used in churches on Palm Sunday.

Psalmody:  Psalm 118:19-25

Additional Psalm:  Psalm 9

Old Testament Reading: Numbers16:23-40

New Testament Reading: Luke 19:29-48

In the daily Lectionary, today’s New Testament reading is the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and the meditation below reflects this Gospel.  The meditation below is by Pr. Scott Murray in his excellent devotional A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year. The emphasis is my own for a post-script reflection.

Meditation:  When John Goodman’s character in the movie King Ralph is suddenly catapulted from utter obscurity to become the King of England, he initially exults in the power it gives him. He has a bowling alley installed in Buckingham Palace. However, it isn’t long until he realizes that power’s crown weighs heavily on the brow that bears it. 

Jesus comes from Galilean obscurity to Jerusalem, receiving the accolades of majesty from the frenzied crowd. Although they did not surprise Him, the burdens His kingly crown brings with it weigh upon His sacred head, wounding it for our transgressions. His coronation day is not an elevation to office, as we humans might think, but a condescension to our need. Like the unfortunate baseball manager who inherits a last-place team, Jesus has nothing but woe ahead of Him. King Jesus is acclaimed to humiliation and ignominious death. He comes not to subjugate, master, and overpower, but to suffer and die. His throne is nothing other than the cross. The crowd thought their hosannas would acclaim His power, and they were right in that He came to save. However, He came to save not by employing His power but by hiding it. He came to save not by menacing His enemies but by forgiving them. He came not to drive His subjects, but to make them His sons. Such is the one whom we hail as King.

 “What mental suffering the Jewish rulers must have endured when they heard so great a multitude proclaiming Christ as their King (Luke19:38)! But what honor was it for the Lord to be King of Israel? What great thing was it to the King of eternity to become the King of men? For Christ’s kingship overIsraelwas not for exacting tribute, putting swords into His soldiers’ hands, or subduing His enemies by open warfare. He was King of Israel in exercising kingly authority over their inward natures, in consulting for their eternal interests, in bringing into His heavenly kingdom those whose faith, hope, and love were centered in Himself. Accordingly, for the Son of God, the Father’s equal, the Word by whom all things were made, in His good pleasure to be King of Israel, was an act of condescension and not of promotion; a token of compassion, and not any increase of power. For He who was called on earth the King of the Jews is in the heavens the Lord of angels” (Augustine, Tractates on John, 51).

Post-Script:  “His coronation day is not an elevation to office, as we humans might think, but a condescension to our need.”  This reflection works well for Ascension. Ascension is the Lord’s enthronement in heaven when He sits at the right hand of God the Father.  The versicle  and response for Ascensiontide’s daily prayer makes this explicit:

The King ascends to heaven. Alleluia!/O come, let us worship Him.

He ascends to heaven still to descend in “humble water, humble words, humble food”, for His Body, the Church, that is, in Holy Baptism, Preaching and Teaching of the Pure Word of God, Law and Promise and the Holy Communion.

And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the Church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1)

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
   and he gave gifts to men.”

 9( In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended intothe lower regions, the earth? 10He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4)

For 1,979 earth years He has been at the right hand of God the Father,  to be with us all and by  His scarred hand to preach and administer Word and Sacrament for His Church, for the life of the world through those whom He has called.

 Let us pray…

O King who comes in the name of the Lord, through Your birth and death, earth and heaven were joined together in peace. May Your coming as King into Jerusalem in humility on the donkey help us to see that You continue to come to us as our King hidden in humble water, humble words, humble food; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  (Prayer of the Day)

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I write  this on our desktop which is also used by our youngest son (sophomore) for homework and social networking.  He will leave homework assignments on the desk and this morning he left this instruction sheet for an English assignment:

“I Am” Poems

The first part of the assignment is “Formatting: ” and then:

“I am (two special characteristics you have)

I wonder (something you are actually curious about)…”

etc, etc, etc.

I would wonder if I  had to do this assignment why do we have to do it! My guess is below.

Then in the second part are samples of these poems:

“I am”

“I am sharp and focused

I wonder what the camera really sees

I hear a buzzing bee…”

etc. etc. etc.

Writing an “I Am” poem is to say, check me out, I’m great.  There is not a lick of humility in that.  Now we know the reason for this kind of assignment:  self-esteem.  This has been going on for a long time because I remember back in grade school (50 years ago) we had to write an essay entitled, “Me, Myself and I”.

Narcissism  is the reigning idolatry  in our day and it is force-fed in our schools.  This forces us to look into ourselves without a guide and to accept what is there apart from the Lord.  This esteeming of the ‘sacred’ self has become a religion, the televangelism of the mass media  of self-idolatry.  No wonder we are constantly clashing more and more into each in a billiards game of just bouncing into each other.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
   we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53

 Looking inside, without humility, will result in either overweening pride or the darkness of despair because I do not compare well with others.  I wonder if the increase in suicide is a result of this self-esteem ideology. And the overweening pride, the anti-God state, is quite demanding: just glance over this clip art. After all, there is supposedly no original sin, only original goodness.

This assignment to write “I Am” Poems reminded me of Someone who said “I am”, as in “I am the Good Shepherd…”, “I am the light of the world…”, “I am the Resurrection and the life…”  ad eternum:  Alleluia!  But only He could actually speak an “I Am” poem in perfect humility for He is without sin, even in His flesh, who bore our inward looking sinful selves so we may look upon Him Who died and rose for you.  In His death, we die, and in Him, we live.

4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2

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