15th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 21

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
21st Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 27 November 6, 2011 Sermon, Proper 27, Year A, All Saints’ Sunday Matthew 25:1-13; Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-20
20th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 26 October 30, 2011 Proper 26, Year A Micah 3:5-12; Psalm 43; 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:1-12
19th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 25 October 23, 2011 Proper 25, Year A Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46
18th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 24 October 16, 2011 Proper 24, Year A Matthew 22:15-22, Psalm 96
17th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 23 October 9, 2011 Proper 23, Year A Isaiah 25:1-12; Matthew 22:1-14
15th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 21 September 25, 2011 Proper 21, Year A Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Psalm 25:1-8; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32
13th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 19 September 11, 2011 Sermon, Proper 19, Year A Matthew 18:21-35; Romans 14:1-12
12th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A, Proper 18 September 4, 2011 Sermon, Proper 18, Year A Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20
10th Sunday After Pentecost – “But who do you say that I am?” August 21, 2011 Proper 16, Year A Isaiah 51:1-6; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20
9th Sunday after Pentecost Year A – Canaanite Woman August 14, 2011 Sermon, Proper 15, Year A Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28
8th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A – Peter Gets Out of the Boat August 7, 2011 Proper 14, Year A Matthew 14:22-33
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – Feeding of the 5000 July 31, 2011 Proper 13, Year A Matthew 14:13-21
Third Sunday after Pentecost July 3, 2011 Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9, Year A Zechariah 9:9-12; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year A, Proper 8 June 26, 2011 Second Sunday after Pentecost Romans 6:12-23; Psalm 89: 1-4, 15-18
First Sunday after Pentecost, Trinity Sunday June 19, 2011 First Sunday after Pentecost, Year A Genesis 1:1-2:4a, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20

 

15th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 21

Sermon Date:September 25, 2011

Scripture: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Psalm 25:1-8; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32

Liturgy Calendar: Proper 21, Year A


Hugh Latimer, one of the designers of the Anglican way, and who was burned at the stake for his beliefs by Queen Mary of England in 1555, tells the following story about humility.

A holy man had spent years in the wilderness.  He ate nothing but bread and water and became so convinced over time of his own holiness—that there was no one on earth as holy as he was. 

So he asked God who would be his fellow in heaven. 

Now God answered the holy man’s prayer, and sent him to Alexandria, where he would find a cobbler that would be the holy man’s companion in heaven.

So the holy man went to Alexandria, and he spent three or four days with the cobbler and his family.  The cobbler and his wife got up in the morning, had prayers together, and then the cobbler went to his shop and the wife got busy with her house work.  At dinner time, the family gave thanks and ate their simple supper of bread and cheese. 

The holy man, by spending time with the cobbler and his wife, learned something about himself.  The holy man realized that he was full of pride and presumption and as Latimer puts it,  “that Godly living is much regarded before God; insomuch that this poor cobbler, doing his duty diligently, was made the holy man’s fellow.”  

Maybe you know someone like the cobbler.  I do. 

Carol is a hospice nurse.  Her greatest desire is to serve the dying and their families and to bring some peace and comfort to them.  She is generous with her time and with her money.  She frequently buys the things that her dying patients need and can’t afford with her own money.  She works overtime when families in crisis need her presence.  She intervenes for those in nursing homes who have no voice.  Like the cobbler, she is a person of prayer who does her duty diligently without any expectation of reward.  Her service has grown out of a life of prayer and gratitude to God.  You may know someone like this too—a person whose only desire is to follow God and to serve God by serving others.

Now back to our story— The holy man had to change his mind about the meaning of holiness—that holiness is not about pride and presumption and being proud of our accomplishments.  

Holiness is the way of the psalmist who asks for guidance from God, who guides the humble in doing right and teaches his way to the lowly.

“Lead me in your truth and teach me,” the psalmist prays—“for you are the God of my salvation.”

All of the scriptures appointed for today point us toward the one of the most important qualities to seek if we wish to live holy lives. 

And that quality is humility. 

Ezekiel understands God as wholly other, a transcendent God who judges each one of us according to our deeds.  And none of us are spared God’s judgment. 

And one of the big sins that Ezekiel addresses in the passage we have heard today is the sin of arrogance.

 The House of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.”  And all of us are guilty of this arrogance as well, daring to think and act as if we know better than God.

“Therefore I will judge all of you according to your ways,” says the Lord God.

 “Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin…..Get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!  Why will you die, O House of Israel?  For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone,” says the Lord God. 

“Turn then, and live.”

Being able to change our minds and wanting to seek the mind of God, rather than to believe in nothing but ourselves and our own judgments, is the first step in living humbly. 

What exactly is humility, and why is it emphasized in scripture?

Cliff and Helen Leitch describe humility as being respectful of others.  Humility is the quality that helps us to respect the dignity of every human being, even those who are radically different than we are.  Humility helps us to be respectful of all of God’s creation. 

In fact, the word humility comes from the Latin word humilitas—and that is a very interesting word, because we translate humilitas as humble, but it can also mean grounded, from the earth—because the Latin word humilitas comes from the Latin word for earth, “humus.” 

So when we have humility, we are truly grounded, grounded in the knowledge that each one of us is ultimately just a tiny part of God’s great creation, mere dust, like the grass that is here for only a season, and then withers and fades, completely unworthy on our own. 

And yet,  God’s love for us gives us incredible dignity and self-worth as human beings. 

And when we are truly humble,  grounded in our mortality, and knowing that our only worthiness is in God’s love for us, we are able to relate to others with humility.  That is, we can respect the dignity of all of creation and of every human being, even those who are radically different than we are. To relate to others with humility is to live in peace and harmony with them.

And humility doesn’t come naturally to any of us. 

Which brings us to the gospel.

A man had two sons, and he said to the first one, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.”  And the son refused.  So the man goes to the second son and says, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.”  The second son says that he will go, but he did not go.  Meanwhile, the first son has had a change of heart, and he goes and works in the vineyard.

The first son had the humility to change his mind and to put away his own wishes and desires.  Instead he went and did the work his Father had asked him to do. 

Paul reminds in the letter to the Philippians that part of the work that God is calling us to do in the vineyard has to do with how we live together in community as Christians.  The Philippians encourage one another, they console one another in love, they share in the Spirit, and they have compassion and sympathy for one another. 

But the Philippians aren’t perfect!  And we aren’t either. 

Paul reminds the Philippians, and us,  that we are to give up selfish ambition and conceit and to look to the interests of others. 

In humility, we are to regard others as better than ourselves. 

And to do this, Paul tells us about the mind of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  And we are to be of the same mind.

What a challenge—to have the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus. 

God is complete without us.  And yet, God created us, and then became one of us.

Jesus came to us, emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross, with no thought of reward. 

He simply went and worked in his father’s vineyard, and looked to the interests of others by loving and respecting even those who put him to death, even death on a cross. 

Edward Pusey, another great Anglican thinker, captures the immensity of the mind of God with these words. 

“It surpasses all thought, it amazes, it confounds, to think of God becoming man; the Infinite enshrined within the finite, the Lord of all blended with His servant, the Creator with His creature!  It is a depth of mystery unsearchable…  It was an unimaginable condescension for God to create.” 

Today we opened our service of Morning Prayer with this verse from Isaiah.

“Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, “I dwell in the high and holy place and also with the one who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite.” 

The mind that was in Christ Jesus—living and true, dwelling in light inaccessible from before time and for ever—and yet coming to live and die as one of us—stooping to enter into the death and falsity and darkness of our mortal lives—so that we too, even here, and even now may work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,  because when Jesus dwells in our hearts, he enables us to will and to work, not for our good pleasure– but only for his. 

“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone,” says the Lord God. 

Turn then, and live. 

Amen 

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