Wednesday, September 04, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of September 1, 2019

Sermon: “Humility Futility”

A young seminarian was preaching for the very first time in public at his fieldwork church.  He had studied his text, done his translations, searched for parallel passages, located wonderful anecdotes and spent countless hours practicing his manuscript.  He was confident that his words were perfect and couldn't wait for the compliments of the parishioners at the door after the service. 

As he readied himself during the sermon hymn his heart began to swell, his excitement grew and he felt he was ready.  He strutted up to the pulpit and opened his mouth, and nothing came out.  He stuttered and stammered and tried with all his might but after only a few moments he walked back to his seat, sat down, hung his head in shame and felt about as low as he ever been in his life.  He believed he was a failure and unworthy of continuing his seminary education.  He was embarrassed and at the end of the service he left without greeting anyone at the door.

Later that week he had a meeting with his supervising pastor.  His soul was empty and he was ready to eat crow.  As he sat down he asked, "Why couldn't I speak?  What did I do wrong?  Why am I such a failure?" And the pastor said, "If you went up the way you went down, you'd be going down the way you went up!"

To be honest, preparing a sermon is hard work.  The day I think I have it figured out is the day I should probably retire.  I’m a wreck the night before I preach, and I stand before you a bundle of nerves.

I’m sure you can relate, either to my fears of being unprepared or that of our seminarian friend who thought he had it all put together.

The margin is razor thin.  Am I confident, or am I cocky?  Am I humble or terrified?

Humility is a difficult thing.  In our human inclination we are filled with arrogance and conceit. Often times it masks itself as confidence or the conviction that we know what is right or can always do that which is best. 

The text before us is not easy.  If you have your Bibles, you can turn them to Luke the 14th chapter.  The key verses are also printed for you in the worship folder.  I want you to hear the words again starting with verse seven, “Then Jesus noticed how the guests always chose the places of honor.  So he used this illustration when he spoke to them: ‘When someone invites you to a wedding, don’t take the place of honor.  Maybe someone more important than you was invited.  Then your host would say to you. ‘Give this person your place.’   Embarrassed, you would have to take the place of least honor.  So when you’re invited, take the place of least honor. Then, when your host comes, he will tell you. ‘Friend, move to a more honorable place.’   Then all the other guests will see how you are honored.  Those who honor themselves will be humbled, but people who honor themselves will be honored.” (Luke 14:7-11)

Now, I believe that this text is more than just social advice when attending a wedding.  There is something deeper here. 

One might think this text is simply moral advice on how to live but I don’t think it’s that either. 

Yes, scripture calls us to live lives of humility, but if you take a good hard look at your life, you will find that living a life of humility is living a life of futility.

Tim and Jack were arguing on the playground when one of the teachers overhears and intercedes.  "Now boys, I thing you need a lesson in humility.  Each of you must compliment the other in front of the class after recess."

After recess as the student file back into the classroom the boys stand in front of their classmates. 

Tim goes first by saying, "I'm sorry Jack, I will never be as good of an artist as you."

Jack and the rest of the class know that Tim is being sarcastic as Jack’s art is terrible, so Jack replies, "I'm sorry Tim, you will always know more things than I do"

This catches the teacher's curiosity so she asks "Can you name one of those things?"

To which Jack replies "I will never know what it's like to be so stupid."

We humans are masters of self-promotion and have an uncanny ability to drag others down as we seek to make ourselves look good. 

So, why does Jesus call us to be humble? 

To begin to answer this we need to understand that the goal of Christianity is not moral perfection by what we do or attaining a set of behavioral expectations agreed upon by others. 

In fact, the Bible is not filled with stories of people who got it right, but with those who found futility in a quest for humility.  Just go through the stories of the Bible. You will find countless examples of those who struggled with pride and false humility; Adam and Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph… and I’m not even out of the book of Genesis yet!

Take a look at your life.  I’m guessing you have a lot in common with those in the Bible. 

In many ways, worship is not a gathering of the holy, but of the lowly.  Gathered here we find the broken, the bereaved, the destitute and the dead in sin. 

I think people get the wrong impression with the purpose of the Bible.  It’s not a handbook for living, or a recipe for a better life. 

It’s contains stories of the broken and the lowly, the proud and the pleased and points to the only one who was truly humble. 

You see God is a Lord who does nothing but exalt the lowly and lower the exalted.  He breaks whatever is whole and makes whole whatever is broken.  He does not adhere to social norms and is not focused on simply morality. 

Humility is not a something to achieve but is someone to be believed. 
Humility is found in only one person, Jesus Christ!

Jesus, in humility became one of us.  He gave up His honored position at the right hand of God, He came to earth and became a servant.  He put aside His glory so that it might be yours. He took the lowest place so that you might be lifted up.  

For every time your quest for humility ends in futility, (and it will happen every time) Jesus is there to nail it to the cross.  Every time you think you have it figured out and you don't need Jesus, He is there as the humble servant lifting you up. 

Friends, we have been called to be humble, but we can’t do it.  Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

John the Baptist seemed to understand this as he prepared the way for Jesus.  Some were thinking John was the Messiah but he told his followers about Jesus by saying, “He must become greater, I must become less.” (John 3:30)

Humility comes to us wrapped in swaddling clothes, tempted in the desert, healing and teaching and leading and when it looked like all was lost that day when He was hung upon a cross humility was on display to defeat sin, death and the devil and in that humble act you are forgiven, and the blessings of humility burst into the world three days later as He rose from the dead. 

In baptism, our futility is drowned and we rise with Christ.  His life becomes our life.  Only in the humility of Christ is there the ability for eternity.

On this side of eternity we may find plenty of futility but we scan still seek humility.  You see, humility blesses when it gives up what might be desired or expected for the sake of another.   We can bless as we cling to Christ to Be Less.

Be less so that we can bless, that is humility, all other roads are filled with futility.  And when you fail, look to the only humble one Jesus Christ.

To encourage you let me leave you with an adaptation of some of Paul’s words to the Philippians,

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father. Amen!  (Philippians 2:1-11 The Message Translation)
-Pr. Seth Moorman


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