The Lighthouse Keeper

Greetings from Pastor Kerry, former pastor of Spring City UMC. This blog contains my sermon outlines and/or manuscripts from my pastorate among the people of Spring City PA, from 2006 to 2011. Pastor Dennis is now the lighthouse keeper. Come and worship on Sundays at 10:00 a.m.!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Jesus Priorities: 4/5: Live With Humility

March 22, 2009
Fourth Sunday in Lent

The Jesus Priorities: 4/5: Live With Humility
Matthew 20:20-28 and Philippians 2:1-11

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” - Matthew 20:28

My sermon outline:

• I am the most humble person I know… Humility a virtue, surprising at least to me that of the 8 priorities Christopher Maricle lists it’s the last, with a “mere” nine events told 12 times. Seems more prevalent, pervasive.

We’ve spent past 3 weeks on 3 other priorities of Jesus’, gleaned by Christopher Maricle’s examination of the gospel. In addition to the big three of love and pray and heal, we’ve looked at Seek God’s Will, Treasures in Heaven, and Children Are Precious.

• One of my daughter’s nightly prayers is The Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner. From Luke 18 when the tax collector knelt humbly in the temple to pray, not even lifting his eyes. I particularly like how Maricle writes about this:

The tax collector demonstrates that it is trust in God’s mercy, not in one’s merit, that assures forgiveness.

We receive mercy when we earnestly desire to be good. We demonstrate that desire by trying even though we may not succeed. In sports, we tell young people, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” We love them no matter what, and we’re proud when they give their personal best. When that best is far below everyone else’s best, we don’t punish them. We celebrate their achievement. Abba is a good, loving parent. God wants our best and rejoices when we conquer a hurdle that’s been difficult. God is also patient with us, knowing that not all our efforts will be successful. We can’t always win, improve, or succeed. Although Jesus did encourage us to “be perfect”, God knows that for us humans it’s not very likely.

There is nothing you can do to earn your way into heaven. God is perfect, and when we return to God, we shall be perfected in God’s love. That will not happen as a result of any act on our part, as if we could wake up one morning and say to the Almighty, “Okay, now I am good enough to be in your presence.” The idea is absurd. Our reunion with God is assured by God’s mercy, not by any state of holiness or grace that we can achieve on our own.

- p. 110

The practice of humility, then, requires trust in God’s mercy. The man humbly bore his soul before God, trusting that God would not trample on it, but bring him peace instead. It’s important to remember here that mercy is when a deserved negative consequence or punishment is withheld. When we cry out for God’s mercy, we say Yes, Lord, I am guilty, I have done wrong in thy sight, I have damaged the relationship between thee and me. This has caused me anguish, Lord. Please spare me from further anguish and have mercy on me. Restore me to life for thy sake, that I may give thee glory.

We also plead for and trust in God’s mercy for others when we ask that God might grant them forgiveness even though they don’t deserve it, for we know that in mercy and in forgiveness there is life, and Jesus came that we might experience life’s abundance.

• Another example of Jesus lifting up humility is in Luke 14, the parable of the wedding guest, and its parallel to today’s gospel reading. Jesus instructs us to presume the lowest place at the table with the humility that A) it doesn’t matter where you sit and B) you might take someone else’s seat of honor. This virtue of Presuming the Lowest Place is exemplified yet again in John’s telling of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, as illustrated by James Snyder here on Wednesday. I have given you an example, Jesus says. Do as I have done. For Jesus did not consider his place with God to brag about, but he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, humbling himself to death on a cross…

• Trusting in God’s mercy, presuming the lowest place, these are conducive to “right-sizing” God’s place in your life, right-sizing your own ego, which tends to be like the view in the side mirror: objects in mirror are larger than they appear… ego makes you appear larger than you are. You know what ego means: Edging God Out… Jesus calls us to sacrifice our ego, so that God might be maintained in the center of our lives. John the Baptist was in the spotlight as he proclaimed I am the voice crying out in the desert Prepare the way of the Lord. His ego could’ve gotten in the way and edged God out, but instead he recognized that when the groom appears the best man must step aside… “He must become greater, and I must become less.”

In his book Mere Christianity, CS Lewis writes “The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether, or you see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.”

Now here it’s important to remember that there is a healthy sense of ego – Jesus is not saying “always remember that you are dirt” but “you are where you are by the mercy and grace of God. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, you are precious in God’s sight and made in God’s image, and you have been granted these things by God, not by merit, you have not earned them they have been given to you. Therefore give glory to God, shout out God’s name and God’s wonderful works in your life. Practice humility because you have received an invitation to life.

• So keep these three things in mind – Rely on God’s Mercy, Presume the Lowest Place, Sacrifice Your Ego – as you practice humility (and as you become good at it!) and as you examine the life and teachings of Jesus and follow in his footsteps… footsteps which lead to sacrifice and redemption.

• Hymn 206 I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 78 in worship.
The handbells played today.


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