Hebrews 13:1-8, 15, 16 & Luke 14:1, 7-14.
The rule of thumb for sermon writing is one hour preparation for every minute spoken (maybe that’s why mine are short). That may seem a lot but a lot of time needs to be spent to make sure we’re talking God’s lessons and not our own and when I first started sermon writing in my last year at the sem. I spent endless hours studying the text in to ensure that be so. This went on for months until my mentor pastor said “what you’re doing is good, but you must also remember that the message is to you as well, so firstly you need understand it personally for yourself and how it speaks to your own heart”.
Resultantly, that’s what I’ve always tried to do. Though at the time his remark “of having been moulded through life experiences to preach God’s Word” made about as much sense as when hearing of my first placement-here in Dubbo, and being confused of just who and what I was meant to be I rang a friend of mine to ask his advice (who I might add is the pastor I would like to be) and his advice was “just be yourself”. A lot of things don’t make sense to me and that was certainly one of them.
At the recent pastor’s conference and synod, hearing and seeing all these people smarter, nicer and godlier I had that same sense of feeling inferior and asking just “what am I doing here”. So what do you do when you’re really got no idea what’s going on. Pray, pray and pray some more: and in my prayer I asked God just what is the deal and begged for an answer.
Two days later I read todays Gospel about after having being forgiven in Christ, God accepts you-and-me-as we are. So for now it looks like we’re stuck with each other.
At first reading, the gospel comes across as not getting ahead of yourself in places of prestige and most certainly Jesus uses the situation of the day to get his point across. Being that in the synagogue, should you have arrived early to take your seat in the correct pecking, there was always the chance that someone higher up the food chain might arrive and be asked forward at the expense of your own seating arrangements and accordingly, public humiliation.
In my previous job I led a team of 30 people. One of which who was a middle aged lady from overseas with limited English. Everyone was nice to her but her role was considered on the lower end of the scale and people didn’t give her as much respect as maybe they gave to others they thought more deserving. One day talking to her, I found out she was only working there to fund her studies. Being that in her home country she was a medical surgeon but having come to Australia had to do another twelve months transitional study to re-commence her occupation in the medical field.
I never told them because a.) Why should it change how people respected and treated her and, b.) It was her life to report back to others should she felt so inclined. But she never did and that she for want of a better word was “running menial errands” instead of clearing arteries did not seem to faze her in the least.
That lady shone a light of the humility of which Jesus talks. Not a false “I’m worthless” type of humility, but the humility to not place ourselves on a pedestal and look condescendingly on others.
And Jesus is big on humility as in heard in the Hebrews text today where we are told “to remember those in prison as though in prison with them”. Now if we don’t guild the lily that’s a pretty hard call unless we look outside ourselves and to that of Jesus himself and the how he humbled himself to be born as a perishable human to walk amongst the fallen. As Christians we just know this is so and rejoice that in his doing so and taking our sins on himself, that in simple trust and belief in him alone we are saved as we are. We know this to be true but we should never forget just how radical it was for in other god belief systems it is about not gods coming to them, but about them working their way up to the gods through works or enlightenment of the mind and body.
Thankfully God the Fathers saving plan for people through Christ is back to front from human thought because in him, the greatest serving the least it brings us the freedom to be who we are. The freedom that means that a well-educated scholar doesn’t need to feel they must have to talk like me, and for people like me not to feel that unless we get a handle on the big words we are some secondary human being. Humility in Christ in not falsely dumbing yourself down or falsely talking yourself up. Humility in Christ is realising that in the kingdom of God we are all equal. And being equal, should one’s place be at the top of the food chain as the world sees it, or at the bottom is of no consequence for either can rejoice in the one same truth like us here today.
That regardless of status or lack of. That given the gift of riches or the lack of: that to each of you here today, that in faith in Jesus Christ alone, that no matter how great or small your sins may be, you have been redeemed of them and are forgiven and free.
Johnny Cash wrote this of his Journey:
There were nights I don’t remember
And there’s pain that I’ve forgotten
Other things I choose not to recall
There are faces that come to me
In my darkest secret memory
Faces that I wish would not come back at all
In my dreams parade of lovers
From the other times and places
There’s not one that matters now, no matter who
I’m just thankful for the journey
And that I’ve survived the battles
And that my spoils of victory are you
Book ends of John’s life and the same may be said of ours. The pain of carrying the hurt of life and the hurt of carrying sin up and against when you are freed in the knowledge of the truth that in Christ alone YOU ARE forgiven and before me today God the Father sees you spotlessly washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.
In Christ you are forgiven and given freedom with nothing to prove to yourself or any others. Forgiven and free to serve those he places before you trusting that while you may travel for the remainder of your lives in different earthly spheres, you travel as one hearing and knowing His Words for yourself both individually and collectively “To be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for it is I the Lord your God who goes with you and I will not leave you or forsake you. Amen.