Sermon August “Humility and Grace.” Luke 14.7-14 “ The wedding banquet”
HUMILITY AND GRACE.
“Somebody has been sitting in my chair and has sat the bottom through!” said the Little Wee Bear in his little wee voice. This is an iconic line from the children’s book “The 3 bears” but it could also be the iconic line from churchgoers, who might be possessive of their “family pew” as the unfortunate baby bear in the fairy tale. I have to warn you that this might be uncomfortable for some of you: but it sometimes happens that you arrive at Church Sunday morning only to discover that someone is actually sitting in your pew! Alas! Crisis! What to do! Do not panic.
In this fine little blue “The Lutheran Handbook” there is good advice to this problem: “How to respond when sometime sits in your pew.” There are 2 good advices:
Smile and greet the “intruders”. Often times they are visitors to your congregation, new blood. Avoid creating bad blood you might regret later on. Make solid eye contact, so they know you mean it, shake hands with them and leave no impression that they have done something wrong.
View the “intrusion” as an opportunity. Remember, you do not own the pew. You just borrow it once a week. Take the opportunity to get out of your pew and try to sit someplace new. This might physical emphasize a change in your perspective and may yield new views.
This is good advice not only in church and pew questions, but in class rooms, in dorms, at lunch, at work etc. And this is exactly one of the aspect that Jesus wanted to teach a lesson on in his parable about the wedding today. Make room, share room and be inviting as you have been invited. And this is most certainly the attitude we should have here at church: to be welcoming and inviting, just as we were once welcomed and invited.
I was at a memorial recently in a very small chapel with few pews and quite many attending. As some distant acquaintances to the family, but yet caring present mourners who wanted to show their respect and condolences, when they came to the chapel and were reluctantly looking at some open seats at the front pews, they politely whispered that “they did not want to impose on the family…..and sit up front “ But then one family member graciously said: But we are all family today!
We are all family today. This is how we gather for service, this is how we celebrate Baptism, this is how we welcome visitors: You are welcome into our family!
Some of the greatest people I have ever met, has also been some of the humblest. And some of the most annoying people might have been brilliant, important, intelligent and known, but this was totally overshadowed by their self-pride and their haughty ways. How do we stay humble in a haughty world?
“ Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told “ come up here” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.”
The wise words of the Proverbs are words that should be a reminder to everyone serving in the public eye, every politician, every actor, every author, every celebrity, every professor or teacher, every pastor or pope – but even more it should be a reminder to all of us extraordinary ordinary people, regardless of position & possession or pews, who sometimes forget the true humbleness and grace that Christ offered to the world and ask us to imitate.
To be humble is not to be humiliated. To be humble is to respect our fellow human beings and to live a decent life of joy and faith. One of the true examples of a humble life of service is Mother Teresa. She was once asked: “How do you measure the success of your work?” Mother Teresa thought about the question and gave her interviewer a puzzled look and said: “I don’t remember that the Lord ever spoke about success. He spoke only of faithfulness in love. This is the only success that really counts.”
“ The Faithfulness in love.” That is truly the image of humility and grace. Mother Teresa lived her life as a humble servant, not humiliated but humble. She shared this list of Humility:
MOTHER TERESA’S HUMILITY LIST
1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.
2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
3. Avoid curiosity.
4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
5. Accept small irritations with good humor.
6. Do not dwell on the faults of others.
7. Accept censures even if unmerited.
8. Give in to the will of others.
9. Accept insults and injuries.
10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
11. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.
13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
15. Choose always the more difficult task.
This is quite a Humility list and task. When listening to her advice, it seems so very easy to deal with people sitting in your pew on any given Sunday! This list is dealing with how we live humble not only in the pews, but in all of our relationship and encounters. And it is not easy… and especially not easy in a haughty world with sharp elbows and demands of success.
When Jesus told his parable about the wedding, even as a Dane, I do not just hear the simple pointed finger of the Law of Jante telling you not to think you are anything, anybody or of any use. That was most certainly not the point of Jesus nor the point of humble Mother Teresa. The point was most certainly to believe that you are somebody, but not more than the others. WE are all invited. We are all called. And in order to make room and share room, we need decency, respect and humility. The author Harper Lee wrote:
“As you grow up, always tell the truth, do no harm to others, and don't think you are the most important being on earth. Rich or poor, you then can look anyone in the eye and say, 'I'm probably no better than you, but I'm certainly your equal.” ― Harper Lee
We are told and reminded to be humble, not humiliated by the others or by a Danish Law of Jante, - we are told to be humble by Jesus Christ, the image of a humble servant and the image of God. WE are told to be humble not to be humiliated, but to create the best relations between us, to make room for each and every one of us and to ensure respect, dignity and love among us.
A Prayer for Humility: O Father, give us the humility, which realizes its ignorance, admits its mistakes, recognizes its need, welcomes advice, accepts rebuke. Help us always to praise rather than to criticize,
To sympathize rather than to discourage, to build rather than to destroy,
And to think of people at their best rather than at their worst. Even…. When they sit in your pew!