Reflection September 1, 2019 by Rev Sunny
Jeremiah 2:4-130/ Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16/ Luke 14:1, 7-14
God’s Reign of Humility
I think everyone has a personality trait or a type of person that rubs them the wrong way. For me, it’s self-centered and arrogant people. I’ve had a lot of people in my life who hurt me and made my life more difficult with their selfish and arrogant attitudes. I need people in my life to be humble and open minded. When one of us inadvertently hurt the other’s feeling, we need to be able to openly talk about it and have the humility to say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize what I said hurt you. I’ll be more attentive and considerate from now on.” Humility and open mindedness make our relationships less toxic and healthier. And as I keep mentioning, according to God’s reign or kingdom that Jesus taught, humility is the highest value. Today’s gospel story is also a very obvious lesson about humility, but before we get there, let us see in what way the nation of Israel was arrogant to God.
In the Book of Jeremiah, we hear God rebuking Israel for going far away from God, not seeking God, forsaking ‘the fountain of living water’ that is God and digging out cracked cisterns that can hold no water. Israel’s biggest sin against God was thinking they could live without God; that is a form of arrogance and pride. Remember the foolish children I mentioned last Sunday and the prodigal son as an example? I think I just described the majority of our teenagers; they think they know everything, don’t they? Anyway, through Jeremiah, God is rebuking Israel’s arrogance and foolishness acting like the prodigal son, or our teenagers.
A lot of Jewish leaders from Jesus’ time were arrogant in a more obvious way. First, as God’s chosen people, they despised Gentiles, and second, as the leaders of God’s chosen people, they believed that their heavenly reward was a sure thing. Using the parable, Jesus tells about being invited to a wedding banquet, where these leaders would be those who assume that the place of honour is for them. What Jesus is teaching here is this; “You think the place of honour is for you, but if you sit at the place of honour when you go to God’s heavenly banquet in the future, you might be ridiculed because God might push you away. Wouldn’t that be humiliating?” On the other hand, if we are humble and sit at the end of the table for lowly people, and God moves us to a better seat, we would be honoured in front of all the guests, wouldn’t we? Jesus taught humility as the greatest virtue in God’s reign. “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” he said in verse 11.
But how can we be humble in our lives? In the Book of Hebrews, we can find some practical advice on living a humble life. Mutual love and hospitality to strangers were mentioned. Now, what does THAT look like? It says in verse 3, “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” To translate it to our context, “Remember the refugees and asylum seekers as though you were there at the US/ Mexico border or on the boat with them hanging on for your dear lives. Remember the homeless as though you were there, outside in the cold. Remember the poor in your community as though you go hungry and can’t buy shoes or winter coats for your children.” You get the gist. This past week, I was listening to the CBC radio story of music teachers who sexually abused many students over the years, and listening to the testimonies of the victim students, who are now in the 40’s, 50’s, and even 60’s, my heart broke because I could almost feel their pain and suffering. What we read in Hebrews is teaching us to feel other people’s pain and suffering as if we suffer the same things with them. This is the essence of the humble and compassionate love with which we are taught to love one another in God’s reign. Yelling “Go get a job, you lazy whatever” at a poor person or a homeless person is not compassionate love.
To repeat last Sunday’s message, let us see one another as God sees us. Let us treat each other with the compassionate love we learned from Jesus. Let us see the suffering people in our world as though we are participating in their suffering till our hearts break and we are compelled to do something to change things such as donating to the food bank, welcoming refugees into our country, and speaking out against bigotry. As we share bread and wine at the Lord’s Table today, let it be a reminder of the principle of justice and equality of God’s kingdom and let us ream of God’s reign coming to earth through our faithful service.